You ViewsVOLUME 17 ISSUE # 36

Assessing the assessment system

Summative assessment, commonly known as annual examinations, at various tiers of academic activities is meant to measure attainment, understanding and achievement at a particular stage. The findings are reflected in the grades that the students receive at the end of the year. It is based on these grades that students are promoted to the next classes and awarded degrees or are declared cases of failure.

There is no doubt that assessment done properly is the key to healthy education because it allows the stakeholders —teachers, students and parents — to know the worth of their efforts. In other words, it is the foundation upon which the whole education structure is built.

However, we need to assess whether or not the assessment system, especially the summative assessment, serves the purpose in our own specific context, and transforms students’ lives for the better, and contributes to the progress of the country. The updated Bloom’s taxonomy states that there are six levels of cognitive learning, and each level has a unique conceptual foundation.

Those six levels are remembering, understanding, applying, analysing, evaluating and creating, and our examination system should naturally monitor and assess all these competencies. However, sadly, our education system assesses only the most basic competence, which is ‘remembering’, while all other high-tier competencies remain on the periphery.

Students good at rote learning achieve higher grades and positions, leading to admissions to medical and engineering colleges and universities. They even qualify the competitive examinations based on their sole competence; memorising.

This practice of assessing students has left our education system on the verge of collapse. Most of our students contribute next to nothing to their own and country’s progress. This is one of the main reasons for the rising rate of unemployment and lack of quality skilled people in the country.

If we look at some other South Asian countries, like India and Bangladesh, they have highly skilled people not only in their own country, but are also providing such human resources to other countries. Our examination system needs a complete overhaul and high-tier learning skills should be given due importance in the learning process. The dated system of memorising and then writing it in the form of long and short answers needs to be done away with. A new examination system should be devised that may focus on evaluation and creation.

Our future education strategies should target building these competencies among the students from the beginning of the academic year. This is the only way practical application of the education will take place which will lead to progress and prosperity, first, of the individuals and, consequently, of the country.

Asim Daud