Every other day we receive letters from our readers commenting on our education system. Most complain about the system but there are some encouraging ones like the one below:
THE recent move by the Education Ministry to make the education system less exam-oriented with the introduction of a new alternative system of assessment, Pentaksiran Berasaskan Sekolah (PBS), is a positive step forward.
Many educators have come to recognise that alternative assessments are an important means of gaining a dynamic picture of students’ abilities to acquire, understand and critically interpret information; use creativity and innovation in solving problems; and express ideas succinctly and effectively.
Such a scheme of assessments should be based on procedures and techniques that are uniform and verifiable in the context of a standardised curriculum and be readily incorporated into the daily lessons and activities in the classroom and school, without unduly overloading or interrupting the flow of the learning process.
Assessment strategies will be required that ask students to show what they can do.
In contrast to traditional testing, students will need to be evaluated on what they integrate and produce rather than on what they are able to recall and reproduce.
Such assessments, generally, should meet the following criteria — focus on documenting individual student growth over time, rather than comparing students with one another; emphasis on reinforcing students’ strengths and overcoming weaknesses; and consideration be given to the learning styles, language proficiencies, cultural backgrounds and progressive grade levels of students.
Alternative assessment includes a variety of measures that can be adapted for different situations. Some of these presentations are oral, written and electronic; assignments and projects; discussions; research and design, including information and physical material gathering; spot-tests and quizzes.
To gain multiple perspectives on students’ academic development, abilities and aptitudes, it is important for teachers to include a range of measures in the assessment portfolio.
The Education Ministry’s proposal that teachers would conduct both formative and summative assessments during the learning process, at the conclusion of a learning unit, at the end of a semester or at the end of the year, is crucial to such a scheme of alternative assessments.
As there is no empirical evidence that either interim or end-of year assessment alone can improve student learning, it is critical that both formative and summative assessments be administered with clearly defined roles for the teacher and the student in the learning process.
Alongside such an assessment system, schools should have the capacity for and incorporate literary, cultural, sporting, performing arts, service and volunteer activities to complement the core academic curriculum.
Students should, not only be guided, encouraged and coached to excel in these activities, depending on their talents and flair, but they should be recognised and appropriately rewarded for their performance.
An alternative assessment system is aptly suited to streaming students, based on their interests, competencies and performance.
This will imply carefully guiding students, after eight to nine years of schooling and assessment, into academic or technical streams of education with opportunities to progress to the highest possible levels in those fields of study.
Teachers’ orientation and training and the quality of teaching, in order to effectively implement the new assessment system, cannot be over emphasised. Upon this single aspect will largely depend the success of the system.
At a time of unprecedented explosion and accessibility of information and knowledge, the alternative assessment holds great promise for students’ learning.
Although the challenge to modify existing methods of assessment and to develop new approaches is not an easy one, the benefits are great.
The methods and techniques introduced should be adaptable, practical and realistic for teachers who are dedicated to creating meaningful and effective assessment experiences for students.
RUEBEN DUDLEY Via e-mail
Source: The STAR Home Education Sunday April 1, 2012