Jamaica’s most famous billionaire, Michael Lee-Chin, is often quoted as saying his success is a statistical improbability because at his primary school he was one of only two students to win a free place to high school when he took the Common Entrance Exam. From that beginning, he went on to university in Canada and success in the mutual fund industry. What if he hadn’t gone on to high school?
Today, a high school education is more accessible to the average student than when Lee-Chin was in primary school. But success in primary school still plays an important role in determining which high school a student attends. For example, as I understand it, the average GSAT score required to attend KC has been trending up in recent years.
There is a vigorous debate on whether the GSAT should be abolished and students just allowed to progress to the high school in their neighborhood -- as is the case in some countries such as the US. It is thought that this would spread the top performing students among all schools instead of having them concentrated at the ‘traditional’ high schools.
Others feel that GSAT is not the problem and just abolishing it would not accomplish much unless the other issues that plague the educational system are first addressed.
Regardless of what is done with GSAT, the importance of a good primary school system should not go unheralded. When I took the Common Entrance Exam eons ago, I attended a primary school in rural Jamaica. And it was a statistical improbability for a country student to win a free place to a Kingston school back then. But my primary school was no ordinary school. It was headed by a headmistress who implemented a system that ensured that her students mastered the reading, writing and mathematics curricula.
Thanks to that system I was able to attend KC.