Are all these examinations necessary?

i Oct 18th No Comments by

Article first published in The Northerly titled ‘Testing, Testing 1,2,3 and…?’

Particularly for young children, examinations can be very stressful. So how many do we really need?

In one study in the U.S., an educational researcher set out to examine whether standardized testing for 7-8 year-olds was really necessary. In the state of Arizona, which has such mandatory tests, he asked the Arizona State Department of Instruction and district personnel why this was done, and was told that it was so they could learn which children needed help and which did not. He asked if they could get that information from teachers, but was told that such information would not be “objective,” that teacher ratings were “untrustworthy.”

He decided to personally test that theory by asking the teachers themselves. In a simple study, he asked teachers to rank the students in their classes in terms of how they would do on the state’s No Child Left Behind accountability test.

Of the 36 teachers that participated, reporting on nearly 1000 students, the researcher found that the teachers’ ranking of their students’ performance showed a strong positive correlation with the students’ rank on the state test. In other words, teachers are quite capable of providing the authorities with information about who needs help and who does not in about 10 minutes.

“In many districts, standardized exam results have become the single most important indicator of school performance. As a result, teachers and administrators feel enormous pressure to ensure that test scores consistently rise. Schools narrow and manipulate the curriculum to match the test, while teachers tend to cover only what is likely to be on the next exam. Methods of teaching conform to the multiple- choice format. Education increasingly resembles test prep”

Although these observations relate to the U.S., there is no doubt that a similar situation exists here in T&T. The Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) pressure now combined with the Nationalized Standardized Tests in Standards I and III, filters all the way down to preschool level. It is now common for three-year-olds to be given homework every day, in order to “prepare” them for primary school.

In a widely-read recent article by Dr. David Bratt, entitled “SEA is child abuse!”, he states that “Our curriculum is far too focussed on tests. Thers is no balance in the curriculum. It lacks arts, music and PE and areas of learning that are vital to physical and emotional health and balance in life.” He notes that for young children, play is far more important than rote learning: “Play develops creative thought and expression…Creative thought enhances problem solving. Creative thought, whether adult or child has its roots in play. When young children use their imaginations in play, they learn to be more creative and therefore perform better at school tasks.”

So will we soon see a system which prioritizes play over rote learning? Don’t count on it, so long as the education system in T&T continues to be designed by bureaucrats rather than educators.