Chapter 5: Assessing school readiness in children using the JSAIS

AUTHORS: L. Theron

ABSTRACT: Drawing on personal professional experience as a practicing educational psychologist from 2000-present (which includes weekly use of the JSAIS as part of a school readiness assessment for a private boys school), I provide a brief introduction to the JSAIS. The introduction summarizes the structure, broad aims and general modus operandi of the JSAIS. I emphasize that the JSAIS should be used to provide a profile of weaknesses and strengths that will allow intervention towards optimal school readiness. The focus of the chapter, however, is a critical examination of the JSAIS in our multicultural, 21st century South African context with its multiple challenges and chronic violence. As part of this critique, I look at items which favour acculturated knowledge and have the potential to trigger previous traumas in order to guide students towards fairer assessment practices. I also provide extensive guidelines, based on my extensive observation and reflection, on using the JSAIS diagnostically with regard to emotional readiness for school, concentration difficulties, language barriers and motor difficulties. In essence, the chapter encourages students not to limit the JSAIS to a measure of intelligence, but to use it as a tool to comment qualitatively (rather than just quantitatively) on children’s readiness for formal learning.

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