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.