I have written several posts about the deleterious effects of the overloaded curriculum in Primary Schools in Jamaica. Compounding this problem are textbooks and practice exercises which demand more knowledge and skills than the curriculum requires.
I had a look at the curriculum for Grade 6, Term 1. There are 4 units:
Number (5 weeks) Representation of Sets; Number value: exponential form; Use of Calculator
Measurement (2 weeks) Scale drawing; Units of time; Perimeter
Geometry (3 weeks) Properties of Geometric shapes (2 D’s and 3 D’s)
Statistics and Probability (4 weeks) Collecting and representing data; Stem and leaf.
At the beginning of each unit teachers are required to check prior learning. What if the students don’t remember or understand what was taught in previous grades? No time is allotted to review that work, but clearly it doesn’t make sense to go ahead and try to teach new material if the foundation isn’t there. Nor is there time allowed to review and assess the new work which is taught. Most of this work is repeated in Grades 7 and higher, so there’s no reason to cram it all in to the primary curriculum. The more able students could be given enrichment activities if they finish their work ahead of time.
I now turn to the text book: Explore Math for the NSC Students’ book 6 by Tony Cotton published by Macmillan education. In the unit on measurement, students working in groups are supposed to design a new housing development. They are to create a scale plan. The dimensions of the plot of land are 1.5km x 2km. The plan should include a play park, a school, shops and access roads. Such an activity is not required by the curriculum. It would be more appropriate as an enrichment activity. Even the most precocious students should find this challenging. The activity suggested by the curriculum is for students to work in pairs to measure their heights then use their own heights and a stick figure to represent themselves, where 1 cm on the stick figure represents 20 cm in actual height (1 : 20). For a boy 148 cm tall, his stick figure would be 7.4 cm. (A more manageable activity – one that students can relate to.)
|Net for a square pyramid|
For the unit on geometry, students are required to construct at least 1 polyhedron and identify the ‘net’ for a specific solid. Each group of children could make a different polyhedron so that the others could see different nets and the shapes they make. Some children will be challenged to visualize a solid given a simple net. However in the same textbook a net with 14 faces is given. I couldn’t visualize this myself. I had to use the internet to find out that it’s a tetradecahedron – more specifically a cuboctahedron as it has 8 triangular and 6 square faces. Again, this would be more appropriate as an enrichment activity. It would be interesting to know how many of our students could visualize the shape from the net.
|Net for cuboctahedron|
The unit on number mentions prime numbers briefly, requiring students to be able to distinguish between prime and composite numbers. It does not require them to know all the prime numbers between 0 and 100. At this level, students won’t be using prime numbers above 17 at the highest and then it’s for adding and subtracting fractions – another rather futile activity.
However, in “Ability Test Practice Exercises and Tests for PEP” by Phyllis Wint, are the following questions which relate to prime numbers.
Page 49, Q 30. Which number does not belong in the group below?
78 121 96 67 22
The student would first have to figure out that this is a question about prime numbers and not a question involving addition or subtraction or square numbers. The answer could be 121 because it’s the only square number and also a 3-digit number, but that’s wrong – it’s 67 – the only prime number. I hope they’re not setting questions like this in the PEP exam.
Page 106, Q 9 The teacher placed the following numbers on the board and asked Norman to circle all the prime numbers. Which numbers should he circle?
129 117 143 135 136 237 91
None of these is a prime number, so the answer choices in the book are all incorrect.
It strikes me that people are getting onto the PEP bandwagon by writing books, trading on parents’ anxiety about this new exam and putting more stress on both students and parents. Many parents are not even aware that the curriculum is available on line. You can find it on the Ministryof Education, Youth and Information’s website. . Under Learning Centre, click on Curricula. Scroll down to and click on the grade you want. You have to sift through to find out what exactly the children are supposed to be learning. The curriculum for Grade 6 (all subjects) is over 400 pages long. That in itself should indicate that there's far too much in the curriculum. My sympathy goes out to teachers who have to prepare lesson plans, impart the material, grade papers and keep children under control. If you agree with me that the curriculum is overloaded, please let our voices be heard.