At parent-teacher meetings (PTMs), the discussion on the child's performance at school eventually boils down to test scores. However, we have often wondered if there is any other way to get a picture of a child's progress. In this article, we try to reflect on the assessment system, and how parents and teachers can approach it differently to better children's learning.
The sole purpose of schooling and education boils down to cracking and acing a plethora of exams. Children are literally stuck in a rat race!
The Indian education system puts children through a variety of assessments, including short assignments, unit tests, viva-voce examinations, term projects, semester exams, yearly or term exams, talent search exams, competitive exams and entrance exams. As a result, the sole purpose of schooling and education boils down to cracking and acing a plethora of exams. Children are literally stuck in a rat race! They move from one hurdle to another, crack one exam after another and race to excel against their friends and peers. Where does this lead them and us as a society? Aren't we building a sick society where a child is only as good or as bad as his or her grades? Why isn't our education system working towards creating platforms for our children to create rich, meaningful and intense life experiences for themselves? Aren't we snatching away a beautiful childhood from our children?
Maybe it's time to analyse the role and effects of these assessments and ask some serious questions. What is the very purpose of assessments? I assume all of you agree with us that, ideally, assessments should measure learning and provide effective feedback for teachers and students. However, the conventional mode of assessment (summative, rather than formative) as practiced in many schools entails little other than measuring the ability to memorize or rote learn. Doing well in exams without true learning is never desirable. But it has become commonplace in our education system. We have ended up with a linear system with unwarranted value attached to test scores.
Further, the existing system's approach in handling children, especially when assessing, is extremely individualistic, leading to hyper-competition. Most of us are aware that society functions in a way that we cannot exist in silos. Everyone can't and should not fit into only one particular role—instead, everyone must work together in their respective roles and collaborate. A hyper-competitive system distorts and undermines the value of what is really needed in a society.
The conventional mode of assessment as practiced in many schools entails little other than measuring the ability to memorize or rote learn.
The conventional assessments system seems to miss the purpose of serving as an effective feedback mechanism too. A recent advance towards this purpose is Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE). It makes the assessment process a continuous one with informed teaching and learning, thus making the process meaningful to children. Yet, we doubt its efficacy in today's linear system, where test scores are still seen as the ultimate goal and barometer. Besides, testing all through the year could stress students out. What's more, the teachers have observed that students are not intensely engaged in their academic pursuits when examinations become an everyday activity.
Now it is evident that the assessments system we have in place lacks any deep roots in students' learning. The policy-makers seem to have taken an initiative, albeit shaky, with Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE), but we still have an uphill task to keep the education system meaningful and relevant. Each one of us—as parents and teachers—must engage intensely with these issues around assessments in order to keep education in alignment to children's learning. It's a matter that should be taken up with urgency since further delays will only prolong the ill-effects on our children—and we'll go as far to say, lead to a world of insanity.
This article was previously published in RobinAge (March 17-23, 2016 VOL 8, NO 49), a weekly newspaper that caters to children in the age group of 5 to 15 years.