TEACHERS, TRAINING, TESTING AND TECHNOLOGY: While well-crafted assessments must give students the chance to show what they know and can do, teachers must have the right tools to assess and document these abilities
FROM this month, teachers are no longer required to go online to key in their students’ assessment data.
Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin made this announcement in response to complaints by many teachers of difficulties in accessing the system online which added to their already heavy workload.
Under the revised school-based assessment (PBS), teachers will focus on providing Form Three students with a more holistic education, in place of the previous exam-oriented system in the form of Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR).
Instead of a single test results that somehow is supposed to capture everything that’s inside of a student’s head, assessment will now include multiple indicators of what students know for broader measures that look at the different kind of things that they have learnt and mastered.
Students will undergo the Pentaksiran Tingkatan 3 (PT3), or Form 3 Assessment, which will see them being assessed via written and oral tests for Bahasa Malaysia and English.
Achieving perfect scores from a single examination will be a thing of the past.
Science, Mathematics, Islamic Studies, Living Skills, Arabic, Chinese, Tamil, Iban and Kadazanusun will be assessed via a written test, while History and Geography will be evaluated via assignments, practical tests, projects, field study and case studies.
There will also be a psychometric assessment to indicate whether a student is more inclined towards science or research, and a sports assessment for extra-curricular activities. Students are then placed based on their interests and capabilities.
Questions for PT3, with different levels of difficulty, will be picked by the schools. The questions will be from the Education Ministry’s Examinations Syndicate, which will monitor to ensure that the questions chosen reflect the right level of difficulty.
Schools will have the flexibility to administer, assess and award scores according to the standardised guidelines set by the Examinations Board, which will also moderate and verify the results with the help of external assessors, prior to their release.
Schools will administer the written tests in October, while History and Geography will be assessed throughout the year.
Unlike PMR, it will be up to the individual schools to decide when to release the results.
Based on their PT3 results and other assessments, students will then move either to Form Four in secondary schools, fully-residential schools or religious secondary schools, Mara Junior Science College, technical secondary schools or vocational colleges.
Education Ministry director-general Datuk Dr Khair Mohamad Yusof has said that the ministry will be conducting training for all subject teachers in secondary schools nationwide from this month until August, to facilitate the implementation of the PT3 assessment.
National Parent-Teacher Association president Associate Professor Datuk Dr Mohd Ali Hassan has welcomed the move to implement the school-based assessment system and PT3. He said this would take away the pressure of exam-focused school life previously faced by students, so they can enjoy more holistic learning.
However, he was concerned about the readiness of the teaching staff for the task at hand.
“Whether online or offline, the teachers have to conscientiously input the assessment data,” he said.
“The data must be readily available to parents for the system to be useful and effective, and acceptable to them.”
He added that there need to be constant monitoring and standardisation of the assessment system to ensure no biasness on the part of teachers.
He also strongly recommended that administrative assistants be assigned to teachers to help ease the burden, so that the teachers can focus on teaching.
“Teachers also need to be continuously undergo retraining so that the school-based assessment system is fully understood and properly administered,” he said.
Professor Dr Malachi Edwin Vethamani of Taylor’s University School of Education said that while school-based assessment aims at the holistic development of our schoolchildren, we must not lose sight of their needs. Our focus must be on learners and learning.
“The many challenges and concerns involved can be listed under four Ts, which are Teachers, Training, Testing and Technology,” he said.
“For teachers, they need to understand and buy into the new system. What is their level of awareness and readiness? The teachers need to understand why this system has been put into place. Their roles will have implications upon the students’ lives and future.
“In terms of training, we need to ensure that at all levels of training, dissemination of information is carried out in an effective manner and there should be no dilution of information. The teachers need to be able to make objective and accurate assessments and assign grades that reflect a consistent standard so that students across the country will be confident of getting a fair assessment and grades.
“Testing or assessment is an integral component of holistic education. Teachers must be able to carry the different forms of assessments, both continuous and final examination. After this, there must be proper moderation to ensure that there is consistency of grades across the country as it has important implications on students’ progression, especially after PT3.
“In terms of technology, we must make sure we have an efficient and user-friendly online system that can support teachers in data management.
“Even as we embark on school-based assessment nationwide, we must be open to enhancing and fine-tuning the system.”
Gabungan NGO Islam & Melayu Malaysia education bureau chief Mohd Nor Izzat Mohd Johari has acknowledged the Education Ministry’s efforts in resolving the difficulties voiced by some teachers.
Mohd Nor Izzat, as Suara Guru-Masyarakat Malaysia working group chief, was one of the teachers who had earlier spoken out against the new system.
He is still concerned that under the new system being implemented, “individual students will not be given full attention by the teacher because of the big classes with average numbers of more than 40 students per class”.
Abby N., a teacher in an international school and mother of three, said the school-based assessment system and the move away from relying solely on examinations is a good idea.
However, she felt that for it to be effective, “the teachers need proper guidance and the system should have standardisation and be properly moderated”.
In Hong Kong, many schools introduced the school-based assessment system in 2009 for Form Four students. Last year, in response to feedback, the system was streamlined by the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority which reduced the number of marks that must be submitted for most subjects,
Under PT3, students should be graded in a way that reflects consistent standards across the country.
In the state of New York, some high schools adopted performance assessments as an alternative to the Regents Exams. The performance-assessment system is monitored and samples of student work evaluated by the Performance Assessment Review Board, an external group of educators, test experts, researchers and members of the business and legal communities. A member of the board once pointed out that schools under the consortium had a higher college acceptance rate for their students.
Moving on beyond standardised testing is a step to take national education to greater heights so that students can apply what they are learning to real-world tasks.
But whatever the problems are, well-crafted assessments must have one purpose: give students the chance to show what they know and can do. Teachers must then have the right tools to assess and document these abilities so that parents understand what is being assessed.
O.C. YEOH | email@example.com NST Channels Learning Curve 06 April 2014