Studying for the test

Some radical changes to the school curriculum are being considered.

One is to look at how we currently assess the performance of students which is mostly through standardised testing: mid and end of year exams.

While the debate about standardised testing continues globally, we must recognise that the way we assess our students in Bhutan needs to improve. There is something troubling about the system when a person’s life is altered only because he/she didn’t score another point, or has to repeat the entire class, and perhaps waste an entire year, because he/she failed in one major subject by a single point. It does not make sense.

There are pros and cons to standardised testing. Some argue that such exams provide an accurate measurement of student, teacher, and school performance. Critics argue that one test carried out on a single day cannot provide a wholesome picture of performance. Education boils down to studying for the test, or teaching for the test. We don’t learn to learn, we learn because we want to pass the test. This has to be reversed. We should learn because we want to know the answer, not because we want to answer a question correctly at the end of the year.

However, the education minister has revealed a middle path. He has said the options are either to have no assessments or assessments only where necessary. The latter option makes more sense. We need to continue assessing performance, but only where completely necessary.

When it comes to our students, we need to assess their development in a more wholesome manner. One or two exams must not determine if they are progressing.

It’s a fact that human beings excel in different areas. Not all “good students” excel outside school. Not all “bad students” fail at life, in fact, some of the most successful innovators, business people, and philanthropists today failed in school.

While our example may not be the best one, it’s no secret that our schools are not measuring nonacademic qualities crucial to success like creativity, perseverance, and other social and emotional skills.

However, one question remains. How will we objectively measure the performance of our teachers and schools? One possible solution would be to have inspectors conduct surprise checks throughout the year, sit in classes, interview students, teachers, and parents and get a more accurate picture of how our education system is performing. There will be other better options than simply relying on test scores.

Let’s stop studying and teaching just for the test.

1 reply
  1. irfan
    irfan says:

    For those who take up teaching as profession, education gained can be considered a potent investment. And when we talk the business of education and knowledge wherever it’s applicable; education is considered the most potent resource to be cultivated.

    But for everything else, education is just an academic portfolio of degrees and certificates without which a livelihood is almost impossible in many ways. So we face this challenge in our system. Students only learn to pass the tests and be rewarded with all the certificates required. Knowledge gained through school and university education is not always education applied for a livelihood in so many of the professions today. Isn’t that very true?

    So a proposed radical change in school education curriculum must consider that big picture. It’s good to learn that it’s been proposed that every subject is going to have a separate curriculum framework. So, we wait to see what important texts go into filling the structure of such a framework and in how many levels. Any possible flexibility and innovative measures in preparing the classroom teaching and learning materials demand that the examination system gets a structural change. It probably must vary from subject to subject.

    Our problem with the present system of examination is that we have the same standard in testing the learning and knowledge levels in each and every subject. To test a student for his knowledge in history shouldn’t be same as the way he gets tested for his knowledge in subjects like mathematics or science or social study related subjects or literature. Can we expect a change here with these new curriculum proposed! It can do education some great favour.

    When not many of us learn for knowledge based applications, it’s obvious that education will not translate into applicable knowledge skills and tools. A change in the system of examination can address the issues here.

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