Manoj Ahuja, Chairperson, CBSE, in his opening statement of “Transforming the System of Assessment: Holistic Progress Card” webinar said that through the new implementation of Holistic Progress Cards, they are looking to “test the success of the system and not just the students”. He claims that by doing so they are providing an avenue of growth for both teachers and students.
The old system of assessments had teachers rallying to finish portions before examinations. This practice, though standardised for decades, does not provide a reformative avenue for students to engage with learning. These assessments model a sense of pressure in students to perform and not assess their learning. Educators who have worked on reforming the assessment process have declared that this is a waste of resources and time since students are taught rote memorization instead of actual skills.
During the discussion and deliberation stage of the reformation process, three major questions were raised:
- How can teachers conduct assessments in a non-comparative, non-threatening way?
- Assessments under the NEP are collaborative. How do we ensure connectivity between all the stakeholders in the academic system?
- How do we transform these ideas into a product that can be standardised throughout the schools under NCERT/CBSE?
To help answer these questions, a panel of experts who worked very closely with Holistic Progress Cards, shared their learnings.
Dr AP Kuttykrishnan, Co-chair of the event and Director of Samagra Shiksha, Kerala, in his address at the webinar opened with the idea of shifting from rote testing to skill testing. “Assessments should serve as a framework for feedback on the performance of the students. It shouldn’t be used to fix a student’s abilities”. Standardized tests were designed to assess a student’s ability to reproduce rote learning, which fails to draw on important inferences like “weak skills”, “strong skills”, “areas of improvement” etc.
Now how do we ensure that students do not feel attacked or threatened by assessments?
Dr Pragya Singh, Joint Secretary Academics, CBSE, said that it can be achieved through the framework of Holistic Progress Cards. She said that in order for the system to work effectively, the holistic approach needs to be modelled on three things:
- Provisions for self assessment and peer assessment along with teacher assessment.
- Along with pen- paper tests, the scope for alternate assessment procedures that record the progress of children in project based and inquiry based learning, role plays, group work, portfolios etc.
- 360 degree report card that tests the uniqueness of each student in the cognitive, affective and psychomotor domain.
- Development of interactive software that can gather key inputs on strengths, areas of interest and focus areas for growth.
The idea then is to create a pedagogical tool that will evenly distribute the participation of teachers and parents in the assessment that can also help stimulate civic responsibilities and community-driven impact.
Adding to that, Dr Anju Chazot, Founder of Mahatma Gandhi International School, said that report cards have a bad reputation of being a damning experience of what students can and cannot have. In her session, Dr Anju drew on the idea of creating assessments that enable students to integrate essential life skills into their learning curve. Having practised the holistic approach in her school for years, Dr Anju, “Competency-based assessments will allow students to explore and internalise essential life skills that are functional for their professional lives”.
Dr Vasanthi Thiagarajan, Founder and Principal of Shishya School, Instructor of Differential Teaching for Harvard Education, said that report cards should move away from the 3 bad Cs – Comparison, Compulsion, Competition to the three good Cs – Collaboration, Choice, Cooperation. What will this achieve? It creates a progress card with a very clear purpose; it shouldn’t be suggestive of merit and intelligence rather, it should reflect purpose, values and growth. This she says will empower the idea of “reflective practise”.
The system can be transformed through assessments is what the general suggestion is. How big of a success model can it be and what do we stand to achieve from this move is another question that needs to be addressed.
To help answer this question, Parvinder Kumar, OSD Core Academic Unit, Delhi Government, took over the session. Assessments, according to Mr Parvinder Kumar must not be relegated to examinations alone. It must test the skills and competencies of students beyond subject headings and provide children with actual avenues of growth. This can be achieved only through reformative change at the core of the issue: assessments. Assessments should engage students in such a manner that they are used as feedback for improvement instead of assigning values to their perceived abilities.
Thank you reformers for addressing some of the key issues rooting the system. It is through your hard work and dedication that we have come so far along in our educational journey.