Another dot in the blogosphere?

Is our assessment system all it’s cracked up to be?

Posted on: May 3, 2012

Cracked pot by mirsasha, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  mirsasha 

Two individuals have been debating in a local paper the merits and demerits of severing Singapore’s link with the GCE examination system.

The first person [PDF] suggested that we have our own examination system. The responder [PDF] gave the usual “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” reply.

Frankly, I think that the first person did not go far enough!

How about not just having our own brand of exams but breaking out of our outdated mode of assessment? Like this Chronicle article, I think that we should stop telling our students to study for (the sake of) exams. On a related note, this father wishes that he could tell his kids not to just study for exams [PDF].

We have set our system up like an unpleasant game where students try to move up from one level to another by defeating boss exams at the end of each level. Unlike a real video game, kids do not want to play the exam game willingly.

I am not saying that learning should not be hard. It already is. I am saying that we should not be learning just for the sake of exams. While that may be the point of schooling, it is not the purpose of education.

School is meant to prepare students for real life, but the exams rarely reflect real life. They do not set the child on the path to enjoyable or meaningful lifelong learning. They rely on paper and pen(cil) in an electronic world. They require you to work alone.

In the real world you can ask for help or collaborate. In the exam world that is cheating. In the real and e-assisted world, you can connect with others and content. Often you can do that faster than you can with the teacher right in front of you.

In the real world your performance and other factors you cannot always control (like whether your boss likes you) determine outcomes. In the real world we rely on portfolios, presentations, projects, and evidence of learning.

Our current assessment system is broken. But our industrial era and industrial strength system keeps trying to put it back together and patching over the cracks. It is a matter of time when the cracks get more noticeable.

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