School Based Assessment
A few years ago at a Sahodaya Conference in Hyderabad, the keynote speaker Prof. Krishna Kumar’s opening remark was ‘we are a nation obsessed with failing students’. I could not help but agree with him. I can now safely add that we are also obsessed with only testing and don’t care if no learning takes place.
It is really ironic that parents and students, who trust a school’s judgement of assessing students till class IX, suddenly mistrust the school intentions for assessment in class X. Before the introduction of 10+2 pattern of school education, we wrote one exam at the end of class XI and were tested on a three year syllabus! The m ove to test only one year syllabus at class 10 level was also welcomed and now continuous and comprehensive evaluation is not good because students are not being made to memorize large chunks.
Hence, they find XI and XII difficult. In every training session that I conduct, my favourite question to teachers and principals is about their views on continuous assessment. Almost all of them complain that things have been made very easy for students.
When asked to elaborate, I am told that as content is less they are not serious about studying!! All my life as a student and later as an educator for 40 years, I was never told that we should make assessment difficult for students or test students on large portions of content. To the contrary we were told that one should test what the children know and not what they don’t know.
It’s interesting no one talks of learning. The students cram before the examination and after the exam they cannot recall a thing! Under the garb of syllabus, we teach every page of a textbook that is prescribed whereas in B.Ed as trainee teachers we are taught that the book is only a teaching tool/ aid. Since most teachers do not even know what Bloom’s Taxonomy is, how they will set questions which involve thinking skills. There was a time when teachers believed thinking skills cannot be taught.
The whole child is our focus and learning and academic achievement form a significant part of the development of a loving,compassionate, healthy, and thoughtful world citizen. Throughout the school life of a child, the ability to communicate, understand, apply knowledge to novel situations, and to solve problems should be taught and not simply work for a result which we can boast about.
We believe that all the individuals have the capacity to improve and learn. All people develop at different pace and have expertise in a wide range of subject areas with unique learning styles. We should focus our professional attention on each student and challenge her/him to achieve her/his maximum potential.
All children develop at their own pace – a pace we accelerate for all students when they are ready. We don’t believe single sittings of examinations should judge the future of children. It is the rigorous approach to learning which ensures that we view children and learning as works in progress rather than ‘snapshots’ of a singular endeavour, the Board Examination! With the introduction of a board exam in class X, the pressure on the student was put from both the school and the home front to only focus on academic achievement. A class nine student is a 13/14 year old adolescent and has a number of growing up issues and physical changes to deal with, which are suppressed and the focus is only on an EXAMINATION. There is no time to focus on self, hone a talent, discover interests, learn an art, practice a sport. The only aspect of school life that matters to adults is the examination result – whether the child is capable of getting it or not.
With an in house school exam and the current continuous comprehensive evaluation programme in place the child is able to blossom to her full potential. A report card which focuses on values, life skills, performing arts, attitudes, makes the child focus on all these with support from the parents. Today, we all lament about erosion of values. It may have its roots in the last three decades of rigorous examination system – ever since the board exam was introduced in class ten in place of a school based assessment!
Memorising is not learning; the biggest flaw in our education system is perhaps that it incentivizes memorizing above originality. Our education system is still a colonial education system geared towards generating babus and pen-pushers under the newly acquired garb of modernity. We may have the highest number of engineering graduates in the world, but that certainly has not translated into much technological innovation here. Rather, we are busy running call centres for the rest of the world – that is where our engineering skills end.
The goal of our new education system should be to create entrepreneurs, innovators, artists, scientists, thinkers and writers who can establish the foundation of knowledge based economy rather than the low-quality service provider nation that we are turning into. Rote learning still plagues our system; students study only to score marks in exams, and sometimes to crack exams like IIT JEE, AIIMS or CAT. The colonial masters introduced education systems in India to create clerks and civil servants, and we have not deviated much from that pattern till today.
If things have changed a little bit somewhere, elsewhere things have sunk into further inertia, corruption and lack of ambition. Students now routinely score 90% marks so that even students with 90+ percentages find it difficult to get into colleges of their choice; but we do more of the same old stuff. Even Rabindranath Tagore wrote lengthy articles about how the Indian education system needs to change. It is strange that from the colonial times, few things have changed.
Every change of a system in the country always attracts severe criticism. Education, especially, has been the target of many allegations from students, parents and teachers. Students think they are overburdened, teachers think they are not paid enough and parents want their children to get 99.99 percentages. Where does the buck stop? Yes, in recent times some steps have been taken. We do know that many IB schools across India are trying to bring in interactive education and we laud that immensely, but we don’t want a change in our system and the system of rote learning continues in a majority of Indian schools. Owing to the fixed style of question papers that have been doing the rounds in board exams from time immemorial, rote learning has continued.
Is it justified that a student is evaluated only on the basis of his/her performance for the duration of three hours of the exam? If the axis of grading and marking is shifted to classroom participation, project work, communication, leadership skills and extracurricular performance, only then will a genuine student shine.Neera Chopra
Neera Chopra is an Academic Analyst with 38 years experience in all phases of the school life cycle, including planning, design, development and project management. She has been the principal of different schools in Delhi and Kolkata.