Work begins on formative assessment system

The government’s pledge and its subsequent decision to do away with class III examination from the next academic session is in line with the Bhutan Council for School Examination’s (BCSEA) survey findings conducted sometime in 2016.

BCSEA did a “Review of Classes III and VI year-end assessment” and one of the recommendations was to do away with the examination system until grade six. However, the review remained with the BCSEA and the issue received attention after the government raised it.

The Royal Education Council is currently working on an alternative assessment system to grade a child and has also proposed the budget.

Council director Kinga Drakpa said REC is looking into continuous formative assessment and are already working on it. “It will cover everything on how to assess and improve a child, review the curriculum and training of trainers,” he said. “However, the actual work would only begin after the budget is released.”

Competency based assessment means learners having the ability to apply knowledge and skills to accomplish desired tasks and solve problems within a defined context. It demands students to use and apply knowledge, soft skills and attitudinal attributes that they have acquired through learning processes into various contexts of their everyday life.

BCSEA also conducted the study on Competency Based Assessment Test (CBAT-III) 2018 for comparative study of students’ performance in future. This was to align with the government’s pledge to do away with the examination system at the primary level.

Educationists during the last education conference decided that students of classes pre-primary to three will not have to appear examinations from 2020 as the education ministry expects to implement a formative assessment for these grades.

BCSEA experts advised the ministry to switch to formative assessment the kind adopted in countries like Japan and Singapore.

According to the review report, a majority of teachers stated that students are under pressure while teachers are pressurised to cover the syllabus and for school ranking. Teachers gave more homework, project works, and held extra and remedial classes.

The review also found that students are instilled with fear and anxiety having to rehearse the past question papers and students were worried about the duration of writing examinations.

The review was conducted to check the readiness of schools to develop their own questions and conduct the examination as per the mode of assessment prescribed by the curriculum designed by REC among others. It was also expected to enable decision makers to make informed decisions on the way forward for the year-end assessment for Classes III and VI.

It was found that students were worried mostly about the type of questions that would be asked. Teachers said that questions set by BCSEA was of high standard that did not cater to the cognitive level of students.

Although students were made familiar with the BCSEA question pattern by giving them adequate practice of the past papers and by giving similar questions in their mid-term examination, the reminder of year-end assessment often instilled fear of failing among students, the findings state.

“It was also found that many teachers stated that the class III students were too young to understand the questions and take the examination seriously,” the report stated. “Many class III students said they worry due to questions being set by the government in Thimphu and felt the questions would be more difficult to understand.”

However, there were also those that did not feel the pressure as evaluation happens at the school level, has low weightage and the questions are in line with prescribed syllabus.

The findings stated that high-stake testing has become pervasive in the current educational culture and both young students and those entering the tertiary institutes are impacted by the pressure to succeed in this system.

“It affects the quality of education a child gets because of its push on attainment of high scores; students and teachers focus on subjects that are tested and teach test-testing skills,” the report. “All these have led to the narrowing of the curriculum with less or no attention given on teaching analytical and critical thinking skills which diminish educational experience.”

Class III question papers are out of 50 marks with a writing time of an hour. The items are carefully graded to cater for a wide range of student abilities using contexts and competencies that stimulate students’ interest and engage in thinking.

Yangchen C Rinzin 

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