The educational field now experiences the tide of talking on how to assess children’s assessment particularly in the government primary schools. The Ministry of Primary and Mass Education hopes to introduce `no exam assessment’ system till class three from 2020. Students of class one, two and three will fall under formative assessment instead of summative assessment category. With this end in view NCTB has developed a concept note that says listening, speaking, reading and writing will be the tools to promote the students of these grades to next higher class without taking the currently run summative assessment . A committee has already been formed comprising ten members headed by an additional secretary which is asked to submit a report within 15 days on how children’s assessment will be made avoiding the current way of taking test. The committee will collect opinions of the people concerned and arrange district level workshops to be followed by a national level seminar to make the decision finally. The education experts’ opinion will also be invited in this regard.
The process of mass standardization through examinations takes away the uniqueness and curiosity of learning that contributes to the growth of well-rounded, critical thinkers. Moreover, exams do not take into account that intelligence is a spectrum, not static. Many students who do not do well under exam conditions are branded as ‘less intelligent’ or ‘weaker’ than those who achieve higher exam results. Branding students who do not perform well in exams as less intelligent is a great disservice to pupils. When we try to judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. In the same way if we judge a student’s intelligence and ability based on their exam score we may not see them for their true potential they really have. A teacher is unable to confidently judge a child’s learning experiences through the same style for all children. It is known to us that each child is different and has different learning styles, yet when we assess them we don’t offer any of these differences. These would then give an inaccurate reflection of a student’s progress and learning abilities.
Children will be asked to tell and write the answers giving them some orders or story or a part of a story to be read out as is proposed. Recorders can also be used in this regard. The clarity, correctness, correct pronunciation, ability to listen, conversation with correct intonation , asking questions, expressing emotion, jumbled words or sentences to be asked to write in an organized way. Good handwriting is to be evaluated. In terms of reading time, pronunciation, measuring motion, listening ability will also be judged. Utmost care should be taken to judge these abilities of the tiny learners as the ability of most primary school teachers to assess these items may further show a question mark. Assessment of children does not necessarily mean to throw the child learners into a competitive situation rather it should be discovering their latent talents. Without awarding numbers to the students their behaviour, habit, curiosity to learn, socialization process should be observed by the teachers which might be a real and large area of research for them.
What is the real objective of children assessment? Does it mean to separate some students from others and branding them as ‘good students’ while others are `mediocre’ and `weak’ learners? The thing must not be like this. Children should be given some messages according to their age and class in an attractive, enjoyable manner to make them more curious to learn. When students respond to these situations, how much interest they exhibit to participate in classroom activities should be observed and recorded. Teachers should also keep the record who are responding slowly and take up measures to make them active enough to respond according to their age and class. Here they should be nurtured by the teachers like saplings.
Teachers must observe wither the pupils are responding to the activities of the class such as enjoying and participating in the activities, dancing with the teacher, mixing with other students, playing games. Suppose, `Halim’ did not mix with his classmates at the initial stages but now he is doing it, playing with them. Robin hesitates to come to the board whenever he is asked. But through encouragement and making him involved in the class. Now he comes to the board without any hesitation or willingly. These things must be known to the guardians whether their sons or daughters are attentive to their studies, they answer and ask questions in the classroom. Whether they take part in the discussion of textual problems, games, group work, pair work to be documented in the pupils’ report card. Class teacher will take into account of these activities and records in the report card to discuss with the school authorities and guardians.
Washing hands before taking meal might be a habit with students. One day light refreshments can be arranged in the class to see who washes hands i.e. who has developed the habit of washing hands before taking meals. The idea of mathematical knowledge can be assessed by giving them simple addition and subtraction with pen, pencil, bag. Reading time looking at watch is a chapter in their English book. They can be asked to read time either in the classroom or school watch. It should be recorded that ‘ Nila’ and ‘Hashem’ can read the watch. Those who still cannot should be helped to make them know.
In the current practice the guardians want to know whether their children have got 80 or 90 percent or more marks in Mathematics and English or Bengali. They hardly or never show interest to learn what their children have really achieved or whether they can read Bengali or English well, whether they can do simple mathematical problems and have any idea on general science or they are developing socially. They show more interest in managing good grades or higher marks for their children in different subjects. This is, of course, not their own problem. This is the usual picture of the whole system and society and all related people are responsible for it. Admission, job, or academic performance everything is assessed or done on the basis of marks students obtain, nobody shows interest to see what they have learnt or achieved. Only marks does not show the hidden potential or real talents of the learners though it is the objective of education to identify and discover latent talents of the learners. From now on guardians will be informed of the gradual development of the students, not the marks. If it can be introduced the real development of the students will happen and they can be freed from the anxiety of the examination which is the most stressful part of teaching learning process.
Writer: Education specialist in BRAC Education Program and formerly taught in Cadet Colleges and Rjauk College