Skills Over Scores

It is time to re-imagine assessment models in Indian schools

We are in the midst of one of the most crucial epochs of transformation that our education system has witnessed in decades, not least during the pandemic. The pace of reforms are aligned to the celerity with which the ecosystem is changing. The emphasis on a future-proof, modern education system which is relevant to the times has soared and rightly so. While education systems are changing, it is all the more critical that assessment matches this pace. After all, assessment, I truly believe, sits at the core of the learning process. If our assessment models are not in sync with the evolving curriculum and the new-age pedagogies, it defeats the very idea of progress that we are seeking for our children.  

Firstly, we need to change the way we look at assessments and why we need them. Assessments have been used for upward mobility from one grade to the next but it is also essential to see them as a means to guide a child’s learning, gauge the process and integrate interventions to aid education goals. It is time that we focus on ‘assessment for learning’ as much or perhaps more, than we emphasise on ‘assessment of learning’.  

We must also recognise that learning and its approaches are undergoing a massive revamp. In addition to thematic knowledge, new-age learning is also about skills and developing character. Modern education today must lie at the intersection of all three – knowledge of traditional subject matters like mathematics, sciences etc,  skills like critical thinking and creativity that help you adapt to contexts, face challenges and solve problems and character –  values like resilience courage, leadership, that are imperative in today’s day and time.  

If done right, the best assessment systems can tremendously aid the learning process and accelerate the adoption of the skills that we want our children to achieve. They can also guide the teachers to undertake possible interventions and give personalised attention to certain students. It will help them answer important questions. How is the student progressing? What parts are they better understanding and what remains a challenge? What are the steps that can be taken now to efficiently guide them to the next level or attain a particular skill? This also helps us move beyond the traditional pass or fail dichotomy and instead see learning as an evolving work-in-progress.  

For the students, formative assessments that focus on their skills and learning curve help them understand themselves better and develop a stronger agency and autonomy. Performance assessments that take into consideration not just their thematic knowledge but critical skills, encourage a higher order of thinking, reasoning and self-evaluation. Assessment tools of a forward-looking system must be designed to be as descriptive of the performance as possible to enable collation of information that supports effective instruction. The best assessment systems will be ones that evidence the full range of student’s progress. These could be through peer and group evaluations and feedback, performance  tasks, discussion boards, e -portfolios, etc.  

Technology can and has been playing a critical role in generating usable assessment data which can be analysed to further adapt teaching approaches. Technology can aid in providing real-time learner feedback and provides opportunities to act on the same by teachers as well as parents. This will also hugely elevate the teacher- student engagement and collaborative learning environment which can include peer assessment and knowledge sharing activities.  Some educational institutes have also experimented with games-based assessment, which although in its infancy, can emerge as an efficient tool in the future.  

The National Education Policy (NEP) has made progress in the right direction with effective work towards developing a school quality assessment and accreditation framework. However, we also need to develop standards for formative assessment for a student’s learning throughout school years. We must imminently focus on training the teachers to understand, adopt and implement a new-age formative assessment model across schools. It is time for a paradigm shift in assessment in Indian education system. We need to seek guidance from the ancient Indian education system, which had a strong assessment system, focussing heavily on evaluating skills which can be practically applied to real-life situations. With this systemic change, we will create a learning environment which well prepares and guides our students to face any challenge in the future.  

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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