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GoGSAT.Com - More Than A Website!

December 18, 2011

Parents, of course, need no reminder, but next year's Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) is now only a few months away (insert terrified shriek here). Festive season or not, it's officially crunch time. By now, parents across the country are pulling out all the stops to ensure that their children have the best possible chance of doing well when they sit down for the exams next year. One avenue that many are turning to, and are finding extremely helpful, is the exam preparation website GoGSAT.com. It's directors, however, say it's more than a website, and it really is. GoGSAT.com offers different packages (one of which is free of cost) that provide access to seemingly countless teaching aids and practice papers. But you get more than that when you sign up with GoGSAT.com.

Dr Leachim Semaj, a GoGSAT.com director, said the site recruits only the best tutors to offer guidance to the students, parents and teachers who access GoGSAT.com. "Students won't be able to learn everything in class and extra lessons. We aim to provide practice and exam preparation that will help them to perform well in the exams, because it all comes down to what is done on that day," he said. The website was launched in 2005 and since then, it has won several coveted awards for innovation and technology in education. It's not hard to understand why. The numerous pop-up graphics, diagrams and charts on the site are highly interactive, visually appealing and easy to understand. GoGSAT.com has also caught the attention of tutors at the prestigious Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The website has forged a partnership with these tutors. This means that subscribers not only have access to some of the best educators in Jamaica, but also to tutors at one of the most well-respected universities in the world.

Vice-president of the website, Shalette East, said GoGSAT.com has exceeded her own expectations. "Our team works hard to ensure that we offer the best service. I'm really pleased with what it has become," she said. GoGSAT.com also provides access to live tutorials facilitated by Jamaican and Harvard tutors, essay grading, eMentoring, 24/7 help, as well as daily homework and research assistance. Directors boast that since 2005, the website's subscribers have won more than 95 national scholarships. Semaj said that there are about 30,000 students registered on the site's database. That number might soon grow though, as another year's tests draw near.

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learning tool with GoGSAT, Flow partnership

September 27, 2011

GoGSAT is an education phenomenon in Jamaica that is helping students achieve greater success in the GSAT examination. Since its inception in 2005, over 95 of its subscribers have been awarded national scholarships, including the Top Girl and Top Boy awards. Now, through a special partnership with Flow, even more students, teachers and parents will have greater access to this home-grown, Harvard-backed on-line learning technology.

Through this collaboration, Flow Internet customers who sign up to GoGSAT or Caribbeanexams.com from September 9 to November 30, will receive significant discounts to GoGSAT's educational packages including three months free access to any GoGSAT package they purchase. Existing customers will also benefit from this partnership. This is important news for students as GoGSAT has been rated among the best on-line examination preparation tool for students in grades one to six. In addition to test preparation material, GoGSAT also provides access to live tutorials facilitated by Jamaican and Harvard University Tutors, essay grading, eMentoring, 24/7 help, as well as daily homework and research assistance. GoGSAT also provides educational materials such as handouts, worksheets, practice tests, etc, for teachers. Currently Macmillan Publishers and Nelson Thornes provide teaching material while Harvard University tutors provide mentorship to students via the system's study room.

This is the second year of collaboration for the two organisations and Shalette A East, vice-president operations at GoGSAT Ltd anticipates another great year with Flow. "GoGSAT is pleased to partner with Flow on this initiative. This partnership came about as a result of our collective desire to assist students with their GSAT, CSEC and CAPE preparation," she said. Last year through the Flow promotion, many persons upgraded from basic usage of GoGSAT, thus maximising access to support and opportunities, East explained. Speaking on the benefits of the partnership, Sharon Roper, vice-president of marketing at Flow said, "We are very pleased to offer this added benefit to our customers. GoGSAT is a dynamic approach to on-line learning, it is relevant and constantly growing. The GoGSAT team is doing an excellent job and we are proud to facilitate greater access to our students," she said. The response to the six-year-old GoGSAT programme has been tremendous, resulting in GoGSAT winning four national awards for education. In 2011, subscribers won 50 per cent of the Government Scholarship places. One Flow customer who began using the service in 2010 also won a scholarship in 2011.

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Jamaica Gleaner: Denham Town School Gets New Computers

February 7, 2011

There was a bounce in her step as she handed out programmes to persons attending Thursday's opening ceremony of the new homework centre, which is accessible to students and Denham Town community residents.

"We can now do our research for our homework," Duffus exclaimed, before adding, "I will use the computer to go to the GoGSAT website so I can study." And true to her word, once the lab was officially opened, the school's head girl planted herself in front of a computer and was busy solving problems with mathematical equilateral triangles. Past student of Denham Town Primary School, Jeffery Reid, had a vision for the West Kingston primary school and funds to help make it a reality. The New York-based philanthropist contributed to the establishment of a computer lab by providing funds towards a $6 million project. The Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo) later partnered with the school and Reid, contributing $5 million to the school's technological advancement.

Corporate collaboration

"The establishment of this homework centre is a perfect example of community and corporate collaboration," said Damian Obiglio, president and CEO of JPSCo. The utility company also pledged to partly cover administrative costs, provide a stipend for teachers in charge of the lab, and cover the utility cost. Education Minister Andrew Holness, who also visited Denham Town Primary, said computers are symbolic of advancement among children in Jamaica. "But having crossed that hurdle of the psychology of the computer, we must now use the computer. We want (teachers) to expose the children," he said. He advised teachers not to just cherish the computers, but let the children have access to them. Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who is also the member of parliament for West Kingston, called for more corporate social responsibility. "Although the communities that surround downtown are poor, downtown is not poor so what we need to do is build the partnership [...]," Golding said. Natisha Strudwick, seven, was one of the first set of children to test a computer, outfitted with the latest Windows 7 operating system. "I'm playing a matching game, see?" she said, showing The Gleaner team that the word ox matched oxen on the screen.

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Jamaica Gleaner: St Mary Student Pleads For Computers

September 21, 2011

TEN-YEAR-OLD ABIGAIL Whitmore, a grade-six student at New Orange Hill Primary and Infant School in Rosend, St Mary, has pleaded to Education Minister Andrew Holness to provide her school with computers. Whitmore said if students were able to access computers, they would do better in their Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT). "If we had computers, we would be able to surf the Internet to do research, and those doing GSAT will be able to go on gogsat," Whitmore told The Gleaner. She noted that many students do not have a computer at home, and the use of the equipment could be an advantage. The future doctor is preparing for GSAT and hopes the problem will be addressed before she graduates. Meanwhile, Dena Williams, principal of New Orange Hill Primary and Infant School, said the school is in dire need of assistance. "We had two computers up to last year that were donated by a church group, but they were stolen within six months. Since then, we have tried to get assistance from various organisations, but no response. The computers were used to assist with our literacy programme." Williams has also requested an auditorium. "We have enough space where two classrooms can be converted to this," adding that several other things were needed for the improvement of the school.

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Jamaica Gleaner: Crescent Primary Family Optimistic About GSAT

February 21, 2011

Ninety-eight of the 137 students who sat the 2010 Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) at Crescent Primary School in Spanish Town, St Catherine, were placed at traditional high schools, Tatianna Harrison, now donning the Immaculate High uniform, boasted 93 per cent to top the averages at the primary school. With this at the forefront of her mind, Crescent's acting principal, Avolda Baghaloo, is upbeat about this year's exam, scheduled for March 24 and 25.

"I am expecting great things. I think we could have some government scholarships this year, and we would have most of our students going off to traditional high schools," Baghaloo told The Gleaner. "I think we can achieve that. We are working towards achieving that goal, and our teachers are dedicated and hard working."

The acting principal is not the only one who is optimistic. Eleven-year-old Tia Osbourne has her eyes set on a place at St Jago High School. "I'm reading more, reviewing everything that has been taught, and doing all the activities in the Children's Own," said the aspiring medical scientist. Like Osbourne, Trevor Guyah also wants to be among the first-formers at the Spanish Town-based school in September. "I was nervous, but I am getting over it. I do have to follow my dream to pass the GSAT to become a bone doctor," the 12-year-old said with a smile. With Immaculate etched in her mind, a confident 11-year-old Codedra Wedderburn said she gets excited when she hears the word GSAT. "I'm overwhelmed. I have a special timetable for studying. I also use GoGSAT. When I go online I get exercises to do and also see what the exam is like from past papers," she said.

It's revision time, and the acting principal said while all subjects are being revised, special emphasis is being placed on mathematics and language arts. For students who still do not have all their textbooks, she said measures had been implemented to facilitate them. What she bemoans, however, is the students who have been compelled to forego extra lessons. "Our teachers here, after dismissal, volunteer to stay back one extra hour to help these students for free. However, some of our parents do not allow them to stay back because of the 'volatile' areas that they have to go into," she noted. Nevertheless, Icylyn Kelly and Rose Evans, entrusted with the task of working with the 93 students sitting the exam, continue their rigorous preparations. "They have to buy the Children's Own. We use it in class, they do homework from it ... . They are getting there, and by the time the exam comes around, I think they'll be ready," Evans explained. Kelly added that technological inputs such as the Encarta Dictionary and GoGSAT are integral to the students' preparation. The GoGSAT is sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development.

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November 22, 2010

Harvard University, S.E.T. and GoGSAT Team up to Provide FREE GSAT Resources to Jamaicans!

Jamaican students in Grades 4-6 can now prepare for their Grade Four Literacy Test (GFLT) and Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) free of cost courtesy of a partnership between Harvard (Berkman Center), Students Expressing Truth (S.E.T.) programme and GoGSAT. This collaboration sees the Bronze Version of GoGSAT which is priced at J$3,000 per year per person being made available to students and teachers at no cost to them.

The Bronze Version of GoGSAT gives users 24/7 access to Pop Quizzes with thousands of interactive practice questions, Interactive Study Guides in Mathematics, English, Social Studies and Science; Interactive Study Notes, Pre-Tests, downloadable PDF Communication Task forms, printable handouts and worksheets, timetables, a comprehensive FAQ, PDF training manual, integrated technical support, eBulletin board, real time eNotebook, real time grade book and the first in the region Macmillan integrated dictionary. As a Super Bonus, Harvard students will serve as mentors to users in the system's Chat Room. Students who use the programme will undoubtedly receive a significant benefit. To date, over 5,000 students and teachers are registered on GoGSAT Bronze Version.

The Teacher's Portal

The Bronze Version for Teachers also features online resources such as printable handouts, tests and worksheets. Like students, teachers register online for free then contact GoGSAT to have their accounts upgraded to a Teacher's Account to enable them to access the Teacher's Portal.

To register for GoGSAT Bronze, users simply visit www.gogsat.com, click Register Now and complete the online form. A User Name and password is generated and emailed to the user.

Additionally, by registering for all GoGSAT products, students are able to utilize the award winning USAID/JCF/MOE/SDC/CDA Community Safety and Security Courseware. This allows students to learn useful information about Safety and Security, leave questions on their personalized Help Desk for the Police and chat with Police Officers in real time.

GoGSAT has been providing GSAT preparation to Jamaican students for five (5) years at three service levels - Bronze, Silver and Premium. The company has won four National Awards and has seen over 50 of its subscribers earning National scholarships.

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USAID/GoGSAT/MOE/SDC/CDA/JCF Wins 2010 Innovation Award for Education


On November 11 USAID took top honors at the Scientific Research Council's 23rd Science and Technology Conference when it was awarded first place in the category of Education and Popularization of Science and Technology for the development of a community safety and security courseware. The courseware was created for inclusion in GoGSAT.com's e-learning programs, which were designed to prepare students for the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT). Therefore, in addition to taking online practice tests in Math, English, Science, and Communication Tasks, students were introduced to ways to keep themselves and their loved ones safe through the interactive modules.

GoGSAT is an e-learning program that offers online tutoring and practice tests to prepare students for the GSAT. In addition to GoGSAT.com, USAID shared the award with its other partners: the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), the Social Development Commission, the Ministry of Education, and the Child Development Agency. After winning in the education category, USAID also won third place overall for national innovations.

Mr. Ken Lyvers, Director of the Office of Sustainable Development at USAID/Jamaica, said technology was very important in enhancing student learning. "Young people need accurate information to inform their choices and build their awareness of their own roles, rights and responsibilities." He lauded the courseware content for being able to concurrently excite and educate students.

The courseware informs students about community policing and how it works; the Child Care and Protection Act; and youth development programs. It includes pre and post tests and interactive quizzes to strengthen and enhance the learning experience. It also features online chats with police officers where students can directly engage members of the police force on their respective roles in building safer communities. The safety and security curriculum also includes modules on fire and road safety; personal safety such as 'what to do if you get lost'; avoiding corrosive substances; and important telephone numbers to remember.

USAID's assistance in this area, through its Community Empowerment and Transformation (COMET) Project, complements its support to the JCF to develop and implement innovative strategies to address youth issues and promote wider community participation in safety and security. Gangs and truancy are major concerns in some communities and JCF reports state gang members are often recruited from a pool of youth who drop out of school after failing exams and performing poorly in school. In an effort to address this issue, the JCF and USAID worked together to sponsor 370 students from selected communities to participate in the GoGSAT online preparatory courses during the 2008 academic year. This effort was highly successful as more than 80 percent of the participating students, most of whom were deemed at risk of performing poorly, received high grades in their exams and several were awarded scholarships. This success resulted in the expanded program which supported 3,900 students and the inclusion of the safety and security courseware.

The Community Safety and Security Courseware is accessible to any child who accesses the GoGSAT online system, and therefore reaches students beyond those directly supported under the COMET project.

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Berwick Primary on the rise!

Sunday July 1, 2010

Fifty-one students of Berwick Primary School in Crawle, Riversdale, St Catherine, were among the 48,200 students who sat the 2010 Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) in March. Of this number, eight have been placed at primary and junior high schools, while the others attained grades which earned them places at other high schools such as Old Harbour, St Catherine, Charlemont, St Jago, McGrath, as well as Bog Walk, which are the first choice of several of the students.

According to Sonia Bird, principal of Berwick Primary, the 2010 results have been the best since 2004, when she assumed the position at the institution.

"We have come a long way. When we talk about literacy and numeracy, the school was basically challenged in those areas. Children's attendance at school was low; we had a problem with punctuality," she told The Gleaner.

However, the school moved swiftly to address some of these issues.

"We have put in place a breakfast programme which is funded by the Nurses' Association of England. As a result, we have seen where children are now coming to school regularly and basically on time."

She continued, "We have in place, too, our school's literacy specialist and we have cluster-based literacy and numeracy specialists who have been working here from the Ministry of Education."

Additionally, noted the principal, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) donated 10 computers to the institution last year.

She said consequently, the students' readiness for the examination was boosted, as they got the opportunity to browse the GoGSAT website which provides examination preparation and online help to inspire confidence in students in grades four, five and six.

"As a matter of fact, this year, too, is the first I have seen the social studies and the science grades looking so good. Last year, they were very low, and I would say that GoGSAT has contributed to that success as well," she said.

Commending the successful GSAT students, the head mistress said she was especially proud of the top boy, Kevon Walker, and top girl, Rasheen Harris

"I am proud to say that they have done well. They are children from poor and humble beginnings and they are well behaved," Bird said.

Rasheen earned a place at St Jago High, where she hopes to continue on the path to becoming a doctor.

"I study in the evenings, in the nights and holidays, because I want to make my parents proud," she told The Gleaner.

Kevon, who said he was fascinated by the sciences, will be among the batch of first formers at St Catherine High in September.

"I love St Catherine High because I want to go to Spanish Town to stay with my aunt and nephew," he smiled.

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GoGSAT Gives Back to Regional Partner Schools Using GoGSAT.com and CaribbeanExams.com

Between June 1, 2010 and December 31, 2010, GoGSAT will be contributing a percentage of students' subscription fees to partner schools' technology funds. GoGSAT hopes partner schools will use these funds to boost their computing facilities and help with the running of their computer labs. Please contact GoGSAT at (876) 906-8144 for more information about the partner school programme.

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GoGSAT launches innovative mobile test prep service

Friday February 12, 2010

GoGSAT Limited, the premier preparation website for students sitting the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) continues its forward-thinking approach with the recent rollout of its latest innovation - GoGSAT mobile (mobile.gogsat.com). An off-shoot of its parent website GoGSAT.com, the application is designed for use on cellular phones, facilitating 'studying on the go'.

Offering over 2000 practice questions on the core GSAT subject areas, at an introductory fee of J$300 per month, the mobile site provides students with an easy option to practice for their GSAT examination, anywhere, at anytime. Along with its modern design, GOGSAT mobile boasts a user-friendly navigation interface with high resolution images, creating an appealing site for its target audience.

"GOGSAT is excited about the new application, and the potential that it brings", stated Shalette East, GoGSAT CEO. "GoGSAT mobile clearly addresses the GSAT core curricular areas that matters most to parents and students, and with so much riding on gaining a good score, we aim to make the preparatory process easier."

With the growing trend towards technology based education, its no wonder GoGSAT has stepped up to offer this innovative application to encourage and sustain continuous learning. "From our preliminary tests, this ground-breaking project is expected to generate much buzz in the market", East added, "and it is a natural addition to our portfolio." We designed this application with children in mind. They spend a huge amount of their time using their cellular phones, so we wanted to offer a learning tool that could be accessed via this medium".

With operations spanning the region, the company also provides exam preparation for CSEC/CXC and CAPE through its CaribbeanExams.com website. With thousands of users, hundreds of partner schools, partnerships with regional and international publishers, government ministries and ministries of education, the company has definitely revolutionised examination preparation in the Caribbean.

To register for GoGSAT mobile, visit gogsat.com or contact GoGSAT at 906-8144, 655-1651 or admin@gogsat.org.

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Special-needs students to get online help

Wednesday November 11, 2009

About 10,000 students with special needs will be given assistance, through the GoGSAT online programme, in preparation for various nationally administered examinations.Sponsored by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) in association with GoSAT, children from the Child Development Agency (CDA), at-risk schools, and schools in community-based policing areas will be involved in practice sessions, leading up to the exams through a programme dubbed 'Practice for Success'.The exams are Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), Grade Four Literacy Test, Grade Nine Achievement Test (GNAT) and Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC).

Bring a change

Speaking at the launch for the programme recently, Shalette East, who spearheaded the GoGSAT programme, said in addition to helping the less fortunate to succeed, the programme is a way to bring changes in society. "These are the children who wouldn't be able to afford the programme. We think we need to bring this programme to the children in state care, which would help them in their assignments and examination preparation," she said. "Also, we want to have at-risk students interacting with the police in an effort to bridge the divide between students and the police."

Assistant Commissioner of Police John Mclean said the JCF is dedicated to promoting community safety, and the GoSAT programme has helped the force to progress in several ways."Young people particularly young men, who fail to achieve academically are less likely to be employed; they become easy prey for gangs and gunmen bent on criminality," he noted.

Educational improvement

Mclean further added that, by assisting these young individuals to improve their educational levels of attainment, the JCF is steering them away from a life of crime and towards a position of being able to make a meaningful contribution to society. He said the JCF is aware and concerned about the lack of communication and trust that exists in many communities, but the community safety and security courseware on GoGSAT.com makes a significant contribution towards addressing this problem.In the meantime, director of policy and planning at the CDA, Audrey Budhi, said the institution is particularly excited about the project, as the 600 wards who will be doing the exams need the help to pursue excellence and exceed expectations.

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US Embassy helps 100 inner-city students prepare for exam

Kingston, Jamaica, October 14, 2009

The United States Embassy is helping one hundred inter-city students prepare for the Grade Four Literacy Test (GFLT) and the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) through GoGSAT.com, the Caribbeans premier test preparation site. The programme will last for one year.The students were selected from Ascot Primary, Central Branch All Age, Dunrobin Primary and Junior High, Rousseau Primary, Liguanea Primary and Rose Gordon Primary. Students are assessed on entering the programme and placed in full practice or literacy streams. Those in the literacy streams are further tested to strengthen weak areas. Sponsored by the Narcotics Affairs Section of the United States Embassy, the programme will expose the students to a wealth of tests and revisions, including 6,000 simulated, full length timed computer adaptive and topic specific tests, instant scoring, real-time grade book, comprehensive language arts review, homework assistance and explanation as well as a personalized help desk and personal e-tutors.

In addition to the practice and literacy programmes, each student will have free access to the USAID-COMET/JCF Community Safety and Security courseware, that is part of the GoGSAT.com. The courseware comprises individual modules covering the roles and functions of the police, safety, community policing, child care and protection, youth development programmes and gang prevention. The Community Safety and Security programme is highly interactive. To complete it, students access individual lessons, games, chat rooms, help desks, real-time online grade books and end of module tests to develop proper policing and security knowledge.

The US Embassy sponsorship comes against the backdrop of recent announcements of a 67 percent primary school literacy average. GoGSAT.com is poised to help, and parent-teacher associations, church groups and organizations are encouraged to follows the US Embassys example and sponsor children who are in need of assistance and encouragement.

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Laurie-Ann Hitchener claiming academic success despite her disability

Sunday, July 12, 2009

LAURIE-ANN Hitchener, 12, epitomised the mantra of a popular sporting apparel company, "Impossible is nothing", when she became the first student of Danny Williams School for the Deaf to achieve an award for her performance in the recent Grade Six Achievement Test. The award, a plaque, was sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-Community Empowerment and Transformation (COMET)/GoGSAT project. "She did very well and so we decided to award her. For her school, she performed the best. It wasn't that she got in the top nineties, but she scored way above average. We thought that was really good," Shalette East, vice-president of operations for GoGSAT told Career & Education. The USAID-COMET/GoGSAT project helps students prepare for GSAT through online exposure to more than 6,000 practice questions written by experienced teachers, as well as authors who have published textbooks. Hitchener also received a $50,000-grant from the NCB Foundation to attend the Lister Mair/Gilby Senior School for the Deaf this September. The sum will help to cover the cost of her fees, uniform, books and other school supplies. Hitchener has benefited from the new Bilingual-Bicultural (Bi-Bi) approach to teaching deaf students, through her learning experiences which started at the Jamaica Association for the Deaf Pre-school Centre. She continued on this path when she transitioned to Danny Williams Primary School for the Deaf.

Over the past year, the little girl was able to take full advantage of a programme specially designed to prepare deaf students for the GSAT examination, emanating from a partnership between the school and GoGSAT. At the school-leaving ceremony, held recently at Danny Williams School, a jubilant Laurie-Ann, who was the valedictorian, expressed her joy at having performed so well in the recent GSAT exams, and attributes her success to the help of her family, her teachers, and friends.

In her annual report, principal of Danny Williams, Maureen Simmonds, said she was delighted but not too surprised at Hitchener's success, noting that she has consistently worked hard and achieved high scores throughout her school life-from pre-school through to the grade six level. Laurie-Ann's accomplishment can be attributed to the Bi-Bi approach adopted by the Jamaica Association for the Deaf in 2000, which incorporates the use of Jamaican sign language, the natural language of the deaf, in the development of language and literacy.

In 2008, the NCB Foundation, which has sought to advance children's educational outcomes through a variety of initiatives, donated $2.9 million towards the association's Language and Literacy Development Programme. The contribution was aimed specifically at improving the sign language skills of parents and teachers of deaf children and upgrading the skill levels of school administrators to better manage their bilingual programmes.

"NCB Foundation is elated that a deaf student from within the Jamaica Association for the Deaf education system was able to defy the odds and set an example for others who are faced with similar challenges," the foundation said in a release to Career & Education. The Jamaica Association for the Deaf, for its part, said it "recognises this achievement as evidence of the positive impact of its efforts and the investment of funding partners over the past nine years to implement a bilingual approach to deaf education".

The association is a non-profit organisation established in 1938 and is committed to providing special education, hearing health care, social support services, and advocacy for the advancement of deaf and hard-of-hearing people. It operates mainly with volunteer support and with assistance from the Ministry of Education.

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News Bulletin - May 3, 2010

USAID-COMET Uses Internet for Gang Reduction

USAID-COMET's approach to community transformation holds education as key to sustainability. A study conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) rated education programs, and in particular homework and GSAT classes, as the most impactful interventions for reducing crime and violence in communities.

To date, USAID-COMET has sponsored more than 4000 students, who were at risk of dropping out of school, to take the preparatory online course for the national Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT). This intervention was in partnership with GoGSAT, a private sector online educational platform, and the Jamaica Constabulary Force. As pointed out by Mr. Bertrand Laurent, Director of USAID-COMET, statistics suggest that many students at the end of primary school age who do poorly in the test or who drop out of school because of poor test results are at greatest risk of joining gangs. Helping 4,000 of the most vulnerable students to perform well in the test and stay in school is therefore an effective part of a comprehensive gang reduction strategy.

USAID-COMET also supported the design of a Community Safety and Security (CSS) courseware designed by the Jamaica Constabulary Force. The CSS course taught students participating in the online GoGSAT program about community safety and security while building a stronger relationship with the police. The CSS courseware was made available to all students in the GoGSAT program during the 2009 academic year and again in May 2010.

Under USAID-COMET's sponsorship GoGSAT also accommodated the first cyberspace meetings between Senior JCF Officers and students. This new and innovative way for students to discuss a wide number of issues with police was so successful that the JCF has committed to using this approach to increase its interaction with youth.

Mr. Laurent hopes that the private sector will work with the JCF to keep the CSS courseware in the program and to sponsor more at-risk students to enroll in GoGSAT in the future.

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Police Officer and Students Meet in Cyberspace

May 21, 2009

The Jamaica Constabulary force will use technology to host full week of cyber meetings during the week of May 25, 2009 to May 29, 2009 with over 3900 sixth grade students who are participating in the USAID-COMET sponsored online Community Safety and Security programme. This meeting will be facilitated by Superintendent of Police Merrick Watson who is slated to conduct an hour long rap with the students. The students will get an opportunity to ask Superintendent Watson pertinent questions regarding safety, roles and functions of the police, community policing, child care and protection and gang prevention. The Community Safety and Security programme is an online courseware intended to improve students' knowledge of issues relating to safety and security. This courseware was designed to strengthen support for local community partnership, improve the life chances of young people, and prevent the likelihood of at-risk youth involvement in gang violence.

The courseware is a composite of individual units, comprising lessons, games, interactive resources, personalised student help desks, chat room facilities, real time online grade books, as well as graded end-of module tests. Each unit is complemented with generative strategies such as multiple choice tests, crossword puzzles and other interactive activities which serve to reinforce what was taught in order to promote critical thinking. Additionally, the courseware features an integrated game which can be played after completion of each unit. The game simulates a city with police officers and residents.

The police officers serve to improve the quality of life in the city by making people feel safe and secure. Additionally, they reduce crime by spending time with persons who are angry or upset. Students are faced with the task of assigning the police officers to the requisite areas of the city as the situation necessitates. If this is done effectively, students are assigned points and are able to move up in rank.

The Community Safety and Security programme has been receiving positive feedback and is viewed as an excellent tool to improve children's perception of the police. This view is echoed by Beverley Gordon, Principal of Stewart Town Primary school who believes that the programme is very relevant at this time, as the Ministry of Education's thrust is safety and security in schools at all levels. She postulates that the programme is very interactive and user-friendly and contends that the students are able to relate to their own experiences and are learning new safety concepts and precautions. Yanique Orr-Whyte, facilitator of the programme at Jones Town Primary school, writes that the students have become aware of the different practices that are acceptable and those that are not.

She feels this is important for them as they prepare to enter secondary school. She posits further that information such as how to treat strangers, gang prevention strategies, Internet safety and the realization that the police are committed to serving and protecting the people of Jamaica are positives of the programme.

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GoGSAT Targets Nearly 4,000 Primary School Students

Thursday, February 26, 2009

About 3,900 primary school students in a number of targeted communities islandwide, are to benefit from the expanded Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF)/GoGSAT Partnership for Community Transformation Programme, scheduled to roll out shortly. An academic initiative, GoGSAT aims to enlighten targeted youngsters' knowledge about the relevant safety and security key to their welfare, particularly those deemed at risk of dropping out of school or getting involved in illicit activities, while it prepares them to sit the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), for entry into secondary school. The initiative is a collaborative undertaking involving the United States Agency for International Development's (USAID) Community Empowerment and Transformation (COMET) Project, the Social Development Commission (SDC), and the Jamaica Constabulary Force(JCF). It was officially launched at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston on Thursday (Feb.19).

An internet web-based e-learning facility, GoGSAT, is the brainchild of a resident of the inner-city community of Grant's Pen, St. Andrew, who expressed an interest in assisting young people in that area, particularly those deemed at risk. It was initially undertaken as a pilot project in 2006. Project Manager for COMET, Bertrand Laurent, who spoke at the launch, said that based on the success of the pilot, his agency received and agreed to a proposal requesting their input. Consequent on COMET's input, some 370 students from areas in which implementation of community policing was undertaken, were facilitated, through co-sponsoring, to participate in the on-line preparatory course during the 2008 academic year. Last year's undertaking recorded an 80 percent success rate.

Outlining the initiative, Vice President of GoGSAT, Shalette East, explained that the programme, which is tailored for Jamaican primary school students, features some 6000 practice questions, covering the curricula for Grades Four to Six. Subject areas covered include: English, Mathematics, Social Studies, Science, and Communication Tasks. Additionally, she said, the curriculum is presented in self-contained units, such as full practice tests, notes, games, and stories. GoGSAT also features an educational game, incorporating aspects of the GSAT curriculum, which is also tailored for local students.

"The system provides an easy and convenient environment for test taking, while giving students the experience necessary to succeed in their examinations. Since its inception, GoGSAT has assisted thousands of children, and is used in over 100 schools in Jamaica," Miss East said. "We are very proud to be the largest test bank in the island, with an assimilated test environment, that not only makes learning fun and interactive, but also ensures effectiveness with high quality material," she outlined.

She said since the pilot phase and USAID/COMET's subsequent involvement, consequent on the success yielded, the agency commissioned the development of a community safety and security courseware, specifically intended to reduce the drop out rate in schools, while strengthening support for local community policing partnerships.The programme features pre and post tests; comprehensive models; end of unit generative strategies; end of module tests; help desk assistance; and an integrated community safety and security game.

"We are pleased to embark on an academic approach to equip and impact the relevant safety and security knowledge to primary school students. We believe that this will be fun and effective in assisting to tackle the problems affecting the safety and security needs of our children," Miss East stated.

Deputy Director of USAID Jamaica's Office of Sustainable Development, Sean Osner, noted that USAID/COMET recognised that community transformation requires the engagement of key stakeholders in strategic partnerships that can help Jamaica win the war against crime; ensure development and safety of Jamaica's youth; and create safer and more prosperous communities. He said USAID has been working with its partners - the JCF and SDC- to assist in the roll-out of community policing in 38 communities, in all 19 police divisions across Jamaica. We see more and more that community policing requires problem -solving partnerships between residents and the police, that will allow them to work together to address issues of crime and disorder. We have also seen that it is important to engage young people in these partnerships," he said.

Mr. Osner noted that the programme's success last year was sufficient encouragement for the agency to expand its support this year.The initiative was also publicly endorsed by Senior Ministry of Education Officer in the Guidance and Counselling Unit, Antoinette Brooks, and Senior Superintendent of Police in charge of Community Safety and Security Branch, Iris McCalla Gordon.

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GoGSAT, Go!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Approximately 4,000 at-risk inner-city primary-school students are to benefit from an educational venture designed to improve Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) passes and hopefully break the back of gang recruitment in violence-plagued communities.The technology savvy pro-gramme, known as GoGSAT, could prove a major anti-crime initiative. "We have seen that when students underperform and subsequently drop out of school, they are prime targets for gang recruitment," said Sean Osner, deputy director of the Office of Sustainable Development at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)/Jamaica. "Our support targets students who are performing below average and who would likely perform poorly on the GSAT test. When their performance is improved, they are less likely to drop out of school and less susceptible to becoming new recruits for gangs." Senior Superintendent of Police Iris McCalla Gordon, of the Jamaica Constabulary Force's Community Safety and Security Branch, said the programme is of much value, especially to young men who are most likely to be sucked into crime's violent vacuum. "We must do everything possible to raise the educational standards of young people, particularly young men who are often drawn into violence at an early age."

GoGSAT is a partnership between the JCF, the Social Development Commission and the USAID Community Empowerment and Transformation (COMET) Project. Under the pilot phase, launched in 2006, the entities co-sponsored 370 students from communities imple-menting community-based policing to participate in the online preparatory course during the 2008 academic year. The programme costs approxi-mately $1,000 per month but schools pay $2,500 per year for each computer. The success of the programme has led to its expansion. "This effort was highly successful as more than 80 per cent of participating students, most of whom had been deemed to be at risk of performing poorly and dropping out of school, received very high grades in their GSAT exams," read a section of a release issued at the press briefing.

Official launch

While the success of the pilot phase was lauded during the press briefing, held at Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in St Andrew yesterday, the expansion of the programme, which will include a course on community safety and security, was also officially launched.

Speaking at the event, Dr Margaret Bailey, principal of the Rollington Town Primary School, said the introduction of the initiative transformed the GSAT fortunes of her students.

"That was when we started to see a turnaround in GSAT," she said. Bailey explained that in addition to getting passes to schools in the upper educational echelons, one of her students received a Bank of Nova Scotia scholarship.

"(GoGSAT is) innovative, comprehensive, creative (and a) breath of fresh air in the teaching/learning process," Bailey said.

Bertrand Laurent, director of the COMET Project, underscored that youths are some of the most critical actors in community transformation.

Shalette East, vice-president of GoGSAT, said the web-based programme was designed by test development professionals to assist Jamaican students with their GSAT preparation.

She added that the system, which covers the grades four to six curricula, boasts more than 6,000 practice questions written by experienced teachers, test writers and authors, who have published textbooks.

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Rollington Town Primary and GoGSAT



New eLearning platform rolls out

Sunday, October 12, 2008

AN INNOVATIVE window of opportunity has been opened for students preparing for the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE), Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC), the Grade Nine Achievement Test (GNAT), and the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) through a partnership between The Gleaner Online and GoGSAT Ltd. Through this exciting project, study guides will be made available on youthlinkjamaica.com, gogsat.com and caribbeanexams.com. Together, these avenues will boost student access to online e-Learning and exam preparation. At the regional level, thousands of students and schools will now be able to utilise the system to prepare for their pre-high school, CSEC and CAPE examinations.

According to Shalette East, vice-president (operations) GoGSAT Ltd. "Caribbean students will benefit from the combination of GoGSAT.com and CaribbeanExams.com examination preparation capabilities." Easy-to-follow examination lessons and tests for GSAT, CSEC and CAPE are already available for parents and students interested in exploring this online option. Marlene Davis, managing director, Gleaner Online, said that The Gleaner is happy to partner with GoGSAT Ltd. "This agreement allows The Gleaner to further fulfill its mandate to expand eLearning initiatives. For the last five years, the Gleaner Online has been working to encourage schools/students to explore the Internet with its Go-Local in school project - www.golocaljamaica.com," said Davis.

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Jamaica Community Empowerment

White Marl Primary GSAT Top Student

August 21, 2008

GoGSAT award at White Marl Primary and Junior High School

Sharene McKenzie, Civil Society Specialist, USAID-COMET presents a cash award to Lathesia Hamilton, the top achiever in the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) at White Marl Primary and Junior High School in St. Catherine. The presentation was made during Monday's Launch of the Second Phase of the GSAT Programme at the school. The students gain free access to the online exam coaching services of GoGSAT, an e-learning company. The USAID-COMET Project pays the subscription rates of students enrolled in the programme at White Marl, Flanker and Grants Pen. Lathesia will be attending Immaculate Conception High in September.

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Jamaica Community Empowerment

Congratulations!

August 21, 2008

Winner receives online exam coaching services of GoGSAT

Dr. Fredrika Fairclough (right), Principal of White Marl Primary & Junior High congratulates Banado Plunkett (left) for his outstanding performance in the GSAT exams. She commended him during the Launch of the Second Phase of the GSAT Programme at the school on Monday, July 14. Banado was the top performer in GSAT among the boys at White Marl Primary & Junior High. Sharing in Monday's Launch were (r-l) Lathesia Hamilton, the top GSAT achiever at the school; Sharene McKenzie, Civil Society Specialist, USAID-COMET; and Michelle Watson, GoGSAT Representative. The students gain free access to the online exam coaching services of GoGSAT, an e-learning company. The USAID-COMET Project pays the subscription rates of students enrolled in the programme at White Marl, Flanker and Grants Pen.

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Jamaica Community Empowerment

Sweet Laughter!

August 21, 2008

Kingston Mayor Councillor Desmond McKenzie and USAID representatives

Mayor of Kingston Councillor Desmond McKenzie (centre-foreground) has representatives of USAID in a jovial mood as he shares a joke with them during the 'Salute to GSAT High Achievers' on Friday (August 22) at the Grants Pen Peace Park. Enjoying the joke are (L-R) Sean Osner, Deputy Director of the USAID's Office of Sustainable Development; Bert Laurent, Director, USAID-Community Empowerment and Transformation (COMET) Project; Sasha Parke, USAID's Project Management Specialist - Democracy and Governance and Sharene McKenzie, Civil Society Specialist, USAID-COMET. Awards were given to 35 Grants Pen students who performed outstandingly in the online practice tests run by GoGSAT, an e-learning company and USAID-COMET; as well as in the 2008 Grade Six Achievement Tests (GSAT).

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Jamaica Community Empowerment

Hug for a Winner

August 21, 2008

White Marl's top GSAT student

Michelle Watson (left) GoGSAT Representative gives a hug to Lathesia Hamilton, White Marl Primary and Junior High School top GSAT Student. Lathesia will be attending Immaculate Conception High in September.

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Jamaica Community Empowerment

White Marl Primary & Junior High School is Pleased with Its Improvement in GSAT Exams

August 21, 2008

USAID-COMET & GoGSAT Stimulate Youth Development In White Marl/Central Village

White Marl GSAT students

Kingston, Jamaica – July 14, 2008:

White Marl Primary and Junior High School in St. Catherine is expressing satisfaction at the upward trend in the performance of its students in the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT). The school attributes this exciting achievement to the technology-based aid that the students now have at their fingertips – the online practice tests run by USAID -Community Empowerment and Transformation (COMET) Project and the e-learning company, GoGSAT.

Teacher and Coordinator of the Programme at White Marl Primary & Junior High, Tamzeene Blake, says over 65% of the students who participated in the programme between January and March this year, received excellent grades in the GSAT exams. The students gain free access to the online exam coaching services of GoGSAT. The USAID-COMET Project pays the subscription rates of each student, who is required to go online for at least 2 hours and 40 minutes each week. Every time they log-on at the White Marl Primary and Junior High, they receive timed practice tests to build their familiarity with the material and the process for GSAT Exams.

Reflecting on the first phase of the programme, which ended in March, Mrs. Blake notes that it fostered an enthusiasm among the students and parents towards the GSAT preparations and GSAT in general. "We had some challenges at first with the internet system since we initially used dial-up service, but that was subsequently sorted out. The students remained eager to participate in the programme," reports Mrs. Blake. "The programme is a very good one. It is really a comprehensive set of material that the children can use – not just for GSAT. It is also useful for students who are entrants to high school."

She is also upbeat about the new phase of the project which will see 45 Grade Five students (who will move to Grade 6 in September) joining the programme: "I expect this set of students now to perform better than we had last year, because they will have more time working on the project." Top GSAT achiever at the school, Lathesia Hamilton, received a cash grant of $3,000 from USAID-COMET & GoGSAT for her outstanding performance. Lathesia walked away with 98% in Maths, 98% in Language Arts, 96% in Science, 92% in Social Studies and 9 out of 12 in Communication Tasks in the GSAT Exams. After receiving her prize at Monday's Launch of the second phase of GoGSAT, Lathesia remarked, "It has helped me tremendously. I was weak in Language Arts, especially in writing skills, but I improved a lot with those practice tests."

Banado Plunkett, the White Marl Primary & Junior High boy who performed most outstandingly in GSAT, has his sights set on becoming a Mechanical Engineer. Like Lathesia, the GoGSAT practice tests assisted him in improving Language Arts, especially in terms of parts of speech. He will be attending Meadowbrook High, and as a lover of Maths and Science, he is looking forward to joining the Science & Environment Club at that high school.

Michelle Watson, GoGSAT Representative, told participants in Monday's Launch that her organization is committed to giving children and teachers relevant resource material for assisting the learning process in Jamaica's educational institutions.

Sharene McKenzie, Civil Society Specialist, USAID-COMET, says the GoGSAT Project is an investment in the future of Jamaica. Noting that USAID-COMET is providing support to the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Social Development Commission for the rollout of Community Based Policing islandwide, she indicated that the provision of improved educational opportunities would not only act as a catalyst for more socio-economic viability for residents, but will in the long-term assist in creating safer communities.

The USAID-COMET Project was launched in Grants Pen in March 2006, and was extended to Flanker and Central Village/White Marl during 2007. Its mandate is to spearhead sustainable community transformation in select inner-city areas, through economic support and social intervention.

USAID's development programme for Jamaica is helping to create a more competitive business environment, enhance the education and health of the population, preserve biodiversity and foster environmentally sustainable rural development and create safer communities.

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Jamaica Community Empowerment

Grants Pen GSAT Students Honoured by USAID-COMET, GoGSAT & the Community

August 25, 2008

Kingston, Jamaica – August 22, 2008: The community of Grants Pen in St. Andrew today rolled out the 'red carpet' and awarded its Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) students who performed outstandingly in this year's exams and who will begin attending high school within a week. The ceremony was jointly hosted by the Grants Pen Community Policing Consultative Committee and the USAID – Community Empowerment and Transformation Project (COMET).

At today's ceremony at the Peace Park in Grants Pen, thirty-five high achievers from the community were honoured with accolades from USAID; the e-learning company, GoGSAT; the Community Policing Consultative Committee and the community-based organization, Barbican-Grants Pen Upliftment Movement. The students who were honoured had successfully were provided with access to an online coaching service run by GoGSAT and sponsored by the USAID-COMET project between January and March 2008, which prepared them for GSAT.

Sean Osner, Deputy Director of the Office of Sustainable Development, USAID, has lauded the students who participated in GoGSAT program, for their 80% success rate in the GSAT exams. "Today we want to recognize and make public note of the accomplishments of these young people. The results have been astounding," said Mr. Osner in addressing today's function for the high achievers.

He noted that owing to the success of the GoGSAT project in the inner city communities of Grants Pen, Central Village and Flanker, USAID is considering expanding the programme to all 38 communities where Community Based Policing (CBP) is being rolled out by the Jamaica Constabulary Force. The new program will also feature a lesson module on community safety for the students.

Mr. Osner explained that USAID's sponsorship of the GoGSAT program for these students is in keeping with the mandate of the USAID-COMET to support efforts that make communities safer and more empowered. He also reiterated USAID's commitment to strengthening the community safety and security capacity of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, the Social Development Commission and community-based organizations. Mr. Osner pointed out that USAID sees the GoGSAT program as a deterrent to crime and violence, since it encourages youth to stay away from delinquent behaviour.

"Gangs and truancy are major and urgent issues affecting youth. Gang members are recruited from the pool of youth (males) who drop out after failing GSAT and failing to get placements in high school," remarked the USAID's Deputy Director of the Office of Sustainable Development. "By facilitating access to the Go-GSAT preparation method, the likelihood of improved performance in GSAT increases and thus reduces the chance of school drop out which usually leads to risky behaviour or minimal employability."

Expressing elation at the excellent performances of the Grants Pen GSAT students, Mayor of Kingston Councillor Desmond McKenzie who was keynote speaker at the event, expressed the hope that the outstanding performance of youth in the community would be sustainable. He urged the students to strive for success in all areas of their lives and to mix that success with a spirit of gratitude and caring. "Remember where you are coming from – don't change your address or lifestyle to suit anyone. Remember your parents," urged Mayor McKenzie.

Voicing concern that students in the All Age Schools were under performing, Mayor McKenzie called on private and public sector organizations to give them whatever support they required, with the aim of increasing their performance at the GSAT level. Making reference to the country's historic medal haul in Beijing, the Mayor challenged the nation to build on the successes of the athletes. He appealed to companies which are now congratulating and providing support for the athletes, "to transform this spirit of giving into supporting local (development) programmes". He expressed the hope that Jamaicans would unite around common goals to transform the island into one of "first world status in terms of our educational and economic capabilities."

The Valedictorian at today's Salute to High Achievers in Grants Pen, 12 year old Kela Williams, expressed the commitment on behalf of herself and her colleagues, to continue to excel in high school. She also had a word of encouragement for delinquent youth, "You pon di corner, uplift yourself and love yourself."

All students who participated successfully in the GoGSAT programme and in the GSAT exams were given certificates and awards from USAID-COMET and GoGSAT. The top 15 high achievers received trophies. There were also special awards for the Top GSAT boy from Grants Pen Julio Jacas, the top GSAT girl Kela Williams and the most improved student Kemaly Pruman. Cable and Wireless gave awards to each participant in the programme. The second phase of the online practice tests run by the USAID - COMET Project and GoGSAT began in April in Grants Pen, Flanker and Central Village and it is preparing students for the GSAT exams in March 2009. Forty-five students from each of the communities are involved in the programme.

The USAID-COMET Project was launched in Grants Pen in March 2006, and was extended to Flanker and Central Village/White Marl during 2007. The revised mandate of USAID-COMET is to support the rollout by the JCF of community-based policing. The Project spearheads sustainable community transformation in select inner-city areas, through economic support and social intervention. USAID's development programme for Jamaica is helping to create a more competitive business environment, enhance the education and health of the population, preserve biodiversity and foster environmentally sustainable rural development and create safer communities.

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Grants Pen students awarded for sterling GSAT performances

August 25, 2008

Thirty-five students from the Grants Pen community in St Andrew were on Friday awarded for their sterling performances in the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) . The students were all part of the United States Agency for International Development/COMET, GoGSAT Programme, which was designed to assist students within the community who had challenges preparing for the GSAT. GoGSAT is an e-learning company that assists students to prepare for GSAT.

The programme was hosted at Grants Pen Cyber Centre and monitored by the Community Policing Consultative Committee. The first batch of students began in January. In the end, 35 students completed the programme and 30 were successful in their GSAT, giving them a programme success rate of 80 per cent. They were placed in prominent schools, including Immaculate Conception High, St George's College and Wolmer's High School. I am so happy that so many inner-city students are finding it easier to prepare for the annual Grade Six Achievement Test through the very generous effort of these partners ...," Mayor of Kingston Desmond McKenzie told the gathering at Grants Pen Peace Park. He noted that inner-city communities were becoming proactive in seeking to develop the training and educational facilities which will guarantee better opportunities for their children.

Performance of athletes significant

Meanwhile, McKenzie said the performance of Jamaica's athletes in Beijing, China, was significant. "When Usain Bolt wins a gold medal, he doesn't win it for downtown or uptown and when he parades around the stadium with the flag draped over his shoulders, or stands on the podium to collect his medal and the Jamaican anthem starts playing, it makes us proud whether we are uptown or downtown ...," said McKenzie

He added: "Our athletes are proving to us that we are really one people, we are one nation, that we should have similar goals and aims and that, in order to achieve them, we must be united around our flag, our anthem, our national motto, our pledge and our nationality."

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Keys to GSAT Success

Tuesday June 24, 2008

In Jamaica, the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) enables comparisons of the performance of students in different schools. The test is administered by the Ministry of Education in the final term of the sixth grade, and covers Mathematics, English Language, Social Studies, Science and Communication Task. The scores obtained by each student are used to determine the quality of high school in which they will be placed. Therefore, it is very important that students do well in this test.

To this end, students must prepare properly in order to perform at their best on the GSAT. Too often, lack of preparation for the GSAT, (not lack of intelligence or knowledge) can make the difference between success and poor performance. This preparation should commence months before the examination as students will need to remember topics taught in grades four through six, and this is simply too much to cover satisfactorily in a short period.

While parents can insist that their child spends a certain amount of time preparing for the GSAT they cannot make them study. The child needs to do this for himself/herself, and should be made to understand that it takes an effort to succeed in life. Parents are therefore encouraged to take the time to talk to their children about personal responsibility from an early age.

Nevertheless, parents should be made aware that students take in and process information in different ways. Therefore, for students to succeed, teaching must be stimulating to them. To this end, parents and teachers should look at alternative methods of learning especially for those students who are not motivated to study using traditional means such as textbook. Teachers using these new approaches are perceived more favourably by students as evidenced by both student self-report and objective outcome testing which indicates that the use of multimedia materials offers an attractive environment to students especially if the Internet is the framework used to support it.

About the Author Shalette East is the Vice President of GoGSAT Ltd operators of www.gogsat.com and www.caribbeanexams.com. She has performed duties as the CEO of Computer Training and More, Facilitator Consultant, Management Institute for National Development (MIND), and IT Lecturer at the University College of the Caribbean, INFOSERV Institute of Technology and the University Hospital of the West Indies. Ms. East is currently pursuing a PhD in Computing Technology in Education in the United States.

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USAID-COMET/GOGSAT PROJECT Help GSAT Students Maximize Their Potential

June 24, 2008

Twelve year old Kela Williams of New Day Primary and Junior High has her sights set on being an attorney-at-law. Kela feels she has taken an important step on that journey to her life's goal, by achieving excellent passes in the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT). She has outperformed her peers to become the top GSAT student in the innercity community of Grants Pen. "I am feeling very happy that I have passed. I am looking forward to attending Immaculate Conception High which was my first choice," said Kela, with joy evident in her voice. Kela was involved in the GSAT coaching project run by USAID-Community Empowerment and Transformation (COMET) and the e-learning company, GoGSAT. Kela is confident that the GSAT Project helped her in her preparations for the exams.

"By doing the practice tests in the GSAT programme at the Grants Pen Centre, I got to understand Science and Language Arts much more. They were my weakest subjects, but I got more knowledgeable with those subjects as a result of the online practice," Kela shared. "I like the fact that if I got something wrong I could go back and check the answers and know where I fell down". Her GSAT scores are an impressive 99 for Maths, 96 for Science, 96 for Social Studies, 88 for Language Arts and 10 out of 12 for Communication Tasks. With GSAT out of the way, Kela is glad that she now has time to watch her favourite cartoon 'Sponge Bob'. Her mother and mentor Stephanie Bailey, cannot contain her joy over Kela's latest achievement: "I always knew she would do well. I am very proud of her. Before Kela started primary school, I used to home school her and I feel good to know she has continued to do very well," said Ms. Bailey. Kela has been on a roll in garnering achievements. She previously won the Award for the best overall performance in the USAID-COMET & GoGSAT Programme for the Grants Pen area, during an Awards Ceremony in Grants Pen, which was held in March this year.

The top male GSAT student from Grants Pen who was involved in the GSAT coaching programme is Junior McKenzie. He also attends New Day Primary and Junior High. Junior has earned a place at Kingston College by racking up scores of 90 for Maths, 90 for Social Studies, 82 for Language Arts, 74 for Science and 8 out of 12 for Communication Tasks. Nelka Clarke, Administrator of the Grants Pen Cyber Centre, who was responsible for coordinating the GSAT project, believes the programme has been instrumental in empowering students in Grants Pen to do better in GSAT this year than in previous years. Over 80 percent of the students who participated in the entire programme have received excellent grades in the GSAT exams and are off to traditional and non-traditional high schools, according to the coordinators of the programme. "Most of the students who were involved in the programme from the start to the finish did very well. We have not had such good passes in Grants Pen in a long time," Ms. Clarke disclosed.

A similar situation exists in Flanker, which also benefited from the USAIDCOMET/ GoGSAT Programme. "Many of the children did well in GSAT", stated Marilyn Nash, Head of the Flanker Peace and Justice Centre, one of the facilities used by students in the GSAT coaching programme. "We are expecting an even greater performance from the Grade 5 students who are now involved in the programme, since they will have a longer time to prepare." Ashley Thompson of Flanker Primary and Junior High has achieved a place at Mount Alvernia High. She feels the GSAT coaching programme played a major role in her preparations for the Maths and Science components of the GSAT exams. "I was not up to scratch in Maths and Science, but I know the GSAT project helped me a great deal. After the many weeks of practice tests I went in the exams confident that I would do well," said Ashley whose ambition is to be a physician or teacher.

Grants Pen in St. Andrew, Flanker in St. James and Central Village/White Marl in St. Catherine participated in the first phase of the joint venture initiative between USAID-COMET and GoGSAT, which began in mid-January and ended on March 12. The USAID-COMET Project paid the subscription rates for 45 students in each of the communities, to receive timed on-line practice tests to build their familiarity with the material and the process for GSAT. The second phase of the programme started recently for Grade 5 students in all three communities.

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New chapter begins for youth of Flanker in St. James

USAID's Community Empowerment and Transformation project & GoGSAT team up for youth development in Flanker

June 19, 2008

The educational prospects of preteens in the innercity Montego Bay community of Flanker have received a boost with the strengthening of a new program. USAID's Community Empowerment and Transformation project (COMET) in collaboration with the e-learning company, GoGSAT, launched the second phase of the online Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) coaching program for Grade Five students who attend the Flanker Primary and Junior High School. This phase will allow the students to have almost a year of free online coaching in GSAT practice tests in preparations for GSAT exams in March next year. GoGSAT allows children of primary school age to have access to nearly 4,000 English, Math, Science and Social Studies practice tests.

The first phase of the joint venture program began in mid-January and served 270 youth from Grants Pen in St. Andrew, Flanker in St. James and White Marl/Central Village in St. Catherine. The USAID project pays the subscription rates of the students and all they have to do is go online for at least 2 hours and 40 minutes each week, to do the practice tests.

Hugh Miller, principal of Flanker Primary and Junior High, is hailing the second phase of the GoGSAT Project as a "welcome program, which couldn't have come at a better time." Referring to the program as a "Godsend", Mr. Miller points out that some months ago; the student population had seen a marked decline owing to an eruption of violence in the area. The principal noted that during the turmoil, the school lost some of its brighter students to other educational institutions. He adds that with the calm returning, students have begun to return to the school and "the GoGSAT program is a motivating factor for students and parents."

The Flanker Peace and Justice Centre as well as the Flanker Primary School serve as hubs for the GSAT e-learning program. Students use the computer lab at the school from Mondays to Fridays, while the Peace and Justice Centre accommodate them from Mondays to Sundays. Under the first phase of the program the project provided sponsorship of 45 Grade Six students who reside in Flanker. "We saw a noticeable improvement in many of the students," Mr. Miller said in an interview. Under the second phase of the program another 45 students who are now Grade Five students (who will move to Grade Six in September), are participating in the program.

Commending the program for providing students with a wider scope of exam material than they were accustomed to, Mr. Miller says because of the interactive nature of the program teachers can leave the students to do the tests and concentrate on assisting students who are slower learners.

At the launch of phase two of the GoGSAT program all students who participated in Phase One of the program were presented with certificates. Marilyn Nash, Executive Director of the Flankers Peace and Justice Centre who is also a resident of Flanker expressed gratitude to USAID and GoGSAT for "creating a brighter future for the children of Flanker." Commenting on the program, she continued, "It is a wonderful thing. It is a challenge for a large number of them to afford extra lessons so GoGSAT is certainly a great help for them in their preparations for exams." Mrs. Nash added, "I was really happy when they informed me that they (the project team) want to work with the Grade Five students now".

Addressing participants at the Launch of GoGSAT Phase Two in Flanker, Sharene McKenzie Civil Society Specialist, with the project, challenged private and public sector entities to match the efforts of the project in committing support for GSAT students in other areas of the island. She declares that the communities stand to reap rich benefits when the children are educated.

The USAID Community Empowerment and Transformation Project was launched in Grants Pen in March 2006 and was extended to Flanker and Central Village/White Marl during 2007. The USAID project is supporting the rollout of Community Policing by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) in 19 JCF divisions. The project is also partnering with the Social Development Commission in community empowerment and transformation across the island.

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Students rewarded for role in online coaching project

March 23, 2008

FORTY-FIVE grade six students from Grants Pen in St Andrew have been rewarded for their participation in an online coaching service, which prepared them for the recent Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT).The students - drawn from the New Day, Shortwood and Constant Spring primary and junior high schools - were awarded certificates and trophies at the Grants Pen community policing station. They were hosted by the e-learning company GoGSAT, the Grants Pen Community Consultative Committee, and the USAID-Community Empowerment and Transformation (COMET) Project. The programme, which started in January, prepared the students by exposing them to online courses geared at familiarising them with questions from the GSAT syllabus.

"It is an excellent programme. I have seen improvement in most of the students," project coordinator Nelka Clarke told Career & Education. "Some of them came into the programme getting grades in the 20s and now they are scoring 70s and 80s." She noted that the programme had offered the students of the impoverished and volatile community the opportunity to receive individual help with their studies. "Some of these students will never get the help from parents nor the individual attention from teachers at school, so when they get that opportunity here they are extremely interested," Clarke said, adding that students had attended classes regularly.The students were on March 12 presented with their rewards as their proud parents looked on. They also received words of encouragement from Miss Kingston and festival queen Khalia Tyrell and have expressed their own appreciation at having benefited from the programme. "I am really glad to be a part of the programme. It helped me to understand a lot of things that I did not get a chance to fully understand in class at school," said Shadene Williams of Constant Spring Primary and Junior High School. Williams received the award for the most improved student in the group.

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Inner-city youths get help with GSAT!

February 10, 2008

SCORES of inner-city students are finding it easier to prepare for their Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), thanks to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-Community Empowerment and Transformation (COMET) project and the e-learning company, GoGSAT. "The project offers an opportunity for youth to extend their reach and build a better future for themselves," said Bertrand Laurent, director of USAID-COMET.

Their partnership with GoGSAT began in mid-January and is benefiting 270 youths from Grants Pen, St Andrew; Flanker, St James; and White Marl/Central Village, St Catherine. They are getting free access to the online exam-coaching services of GoGSAT for a one-year period. The USAID-COMET project pays the subscription rates of the students, and all they have to do is go to the cyber centres for at least two hours and 40 minutes each week. Each time they log on at the centres, they receive timed practice tests to build their familiarity with the material and the process for GSAT exams. "We are preparing 45 grade-six students from each of the three communities for the upcoming GSAT exams, and when they are finished with that exam, we will begin to train another 135 students (that is 45 from each of the communities) who are now in Grade five," said Shalette East, GoGSAT's vice president of operations. East added that GoGSAT had trained the teachers and/or centre managers who will administer the programme. "Students have a Help Desk, at which they can seek answers to questions online, and get those answers in 24 hours. They also have a Chatroom, on which they can log on and speak with a tutor live, between 5pm and 7pm," she said in a release to the media. Teachers/centre managers, meanwhile, can also keep track of their grades and progress in preparing for GSAT, through a special facility called a 'grade-book' system.

Schools in the targeted communities assist in the selection of the students - 20 per cent of those selected were performing above average, 60 per cent were average and 20 per cent were performing below average prior to the GoGSAT venture. "We will also be administering a survey for teachers so they can indicate what level of improvement they have noticed in the students, during the programme," East said. Students from the Grants Pen area who attend New Day Primary and Junior High, Shortwood Practising, and Constant Spring Primary Schools are involved in the programme which operates out of the community's cyber centre at the Grants Pen community policing station.

Nelka Clarke, administrator for the centre, is pleased with the enthusiasm of the children. "Over the years, the performance by the Grants Pen students in GSAT Exams, has not been satisfactory and so the GoGSAT programme will be of tremendous help. We want a 100 per cent improvement in the performance of the children," Clarke said. In Montego Bay, the Flanker Peace and Justice Centre as well as the Flanker Primary School and Junior High School serve as the hub for the programme. Marilyn Nash, director of the Flanker Peace & Justice Centre, said the USAID-COMET/GOGSAT project gave students who were unable to pay for extra lessons at school "a boost in their academics".

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Scotiabank Goes – GoGSAT

January 19, 2008

Scotiabank is partnering with GoGSAT.com to extend this programme to an additional 25 schools at the primary level. The bank marked its support of the programme with a special demonstration for students and teachers at the Iris Gelly Primary School in Kingston earlier this week. The GoGSAT programme will give students access to a database of more than 6,000 practice questions covering all the focal areas of the Grade Six Achievement Test. The programme also offers a simulated test environment, inclusive of timed testing and automatic grading and enables parents and teachers to keep track of student performance.

According to Joylene Griffiths Irving, director, public, corporate and government affairs at Scotiabank, the GoGSAT programme offers another opportunity to enhance Scotiabank's support to primary education. "We have selected schools based on their inability to afford the programme as well as to enhance our ongoing relationship with the institutions," she said. "For example, some of these schools are beneficiaries of scholarships, computer equipment, or are participants in our Breakfast Feeding Programme or our HIV and AIDS awareness programme."

Shalette East, who heads the GoGSAT programme, said Scotiabank's support brings the number of schools using the programme to 70. "With this programme, students have access to comprehensive information in one place. After taking tests, there is a live marker that scores the tests almost immediately, and gives the results. In cases of incorrect answers, students can view the correct response."

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Jamaica Gleaner: GoGSAT now at Sangster's Book Stores

November 8, 2007

For additional ways to help your child to prepare for the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), there is now the GoGSAT Access Card. When you buy this card, all you have to do is scratch the back, as you would a phone card, to reveal a username and password which will grant access to the GoGSAT preparation website. These cards are now available at Sangster's Book Stores.

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