High time for policymakers to review…

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Rozina Asif

COVID1-19 and lockdown have not only shifted the mode of teaching and learning from face to face to virtual scheme of work but also demands to review traditional ways of end-of-year assessments, grading systems and admission criteria. Our policymakers must show some concern as it is high time to understand those old ways will not work anymore. Online classes and assessments were a huge challenge, especially for the students of government schools as they mostly belong to remote areas and lack the facilities of the internet.
Power failure, lack of training and unavailability of laptops and other gadgets have added more to this problem. Cancellation of exams in many countries including Pakistan and the promotion of students to other classes have raised serious questions about promotion criteria and transparency of the final result. The future of students is at stake; Parents and students are very concerned about all this and demand a change in university placement and scholarship criteria. Amidst all these problems, it is very important to review and develop curriculums, where we need to incorporate informative ways of assessments including the performance of the student throughout the year and progression in the level of learning objectives that will reflect in the final result. Three to four hours of exams cannot identify the overall learning of a child. We need to seriously devise an assessment system where learning in student’s skills development will define the overall student’s result. Annual syllabus at all levels must be divided into coursework and exams with equal weightage in overall results.
Coursework may include project, research, report writing, models, class and home assignments, quizzes, and class tests varying from subject to subject so that mixed ability groups are catered. This will not only give a true picture of student’s overall performance throughout the year but will also develop a serious attitude towards learning and overall assessment procedure of any institution. It is crucial to give weightage to internal assessment with formal feedback from teachers with supportive shreds of evidence to formulate the overall result especially in boards and O and A levels Cambridge examination. In addition to the coursework, admission criteria must also include the student’s portfolio. It comprises of community service hours, internships, the participation of the student in co and extracurricular activities to judge the holistic development of a child. In this situation where due to Lockdown and Covid-19 no formal exams could take place, such a combination of internal and external assessment systems would provide an easy and transparent way to promote students. Furthermore, online assessments must also be designed that stresses research, analysis and critical thinking to avoid any plagiarism. Teachers need to act more like facilitators where they are engaged in debates and discussions with students for their academic and social development instead of typical classroom lectures.
Many private education systems are following this model of assessment and promotion criteria in their capacity, however, with the collaboration of public schools this model needs to be duplicated with more level/subject-wise details in higher classes too. Our national boards like HEC and international examination boards like Cambridge, which has a massive market of O and A level students here, must design such a collaborative scheme of continuous assessment where transparency may not be questioned to ensure smooth transition and continuity. We need to prepare learners to be able to work across demographic lines of differences by teaching life skills like creativity, communication, collaboration alongside empathy, and emotional intelligence.
—The writer is an educationist based in Islamabad.