Dear Ministry of Education,
I want to take this opportunity to formally congratulate you on all the marvellous methods you have created, on your own, to torment young learners and their parents/guardians.
Over the years, I have grown to expect anything from you and I must say you have not disappointed me yet.
From allowing schools to charge school fees in breach of the Education Act to allowing schools to deliver a curriculum that does little for the development of our children, I am constantly in awe. You might not be as bad as the worst, but you are certainly nowhere near the best.
Congratulations on making failure and mediocrity look so commonplace.
What impresses me most, is the fact that you have created a system where teachers go through years of formal education then return to the classroom to do nothing better than they did before their training. It is almost as though there is some sort of unwritten rule that all gained at “Teachers’ College” should be thrown in a trash bin, the minute a teacher returns to full time employment.
One of those things that is thrown away is the knowledge gained on assessments.
Even the most basic lesson on assessments would allow a teacher to understand that there are some fundamental elements that must be in place for an assessment to be deemed credible. For instance:
1. The time given for the assessment should be sufficient to complete the assessment.
2. The instructions and questions must be clear and direct.
3. The font size and general layout of the paper must be easy on the eyes.
4. The assessment should be based on what was taught and should, if possible, include various question types, and questions of various “weights”.
These are just a few, and I am sure you could add many more.
Now, here we are in this great new world of online learning, and assessments become a bit trickier. Parents and guardians are often at work or working while students are “in class”, and though this is not an unfamiliar experience, in the world of online learning it makes all the difference. Let me explain, online learning has its own issues. Poor internet connections, power shortages, inadequate devices, and many other issues lead to frustration in children as well as those who should be supervising them. As a teacher-mom I am often placed in the unique position where I am in class teaching and comforting and assisting a 7-year-old who for the third time in 20 minutes has been “kicked out” of her class because the “internet dropped”.
So here we are, finally, at the crux of the matter.
When it was decided to allow primary schools to have an exam this term, did anyone at the Ministry of Education consider the myriad of problems that children, their parents and guardians are faced with at this point?
Did it occur to anyone at the Ministry of Education that an assessment should be done in a manner that ensures, as far as possible that all children are given a fair opportunity to perform well?
I have long complained about the fact that primary school children like my 7-year-old are given three and four exams in a single day, something that is not even done at the secondary level and certainly not at the tertiary level. How then are primary school students forced to function under such strenuous conditions? Certainly, that is not “best practice”.
While some children have the undivided attention of their parents during their online class sessions, some are left on their own to literally battle their way through. It, therefore, bothers me greatly that the Ministry of Education would give permission to schools at the primary level to administer exams with rigid time constraints, and to continue allowing the administering of four exams in a single day.
Just in case it baffles anyone at the Ministry of Education, allow me to highlight a few reasons why any rigid exam process at this point will “straight off the bat” put some children at a disadvantage, setting them up for failure.
1. Some children have faster and better internet connections than others.
2. Some children are using computers while others are using tablets and phones.
3. Some children are in quiet environments at home while others are not.
4. Some children have the help of parents and older siblings while others are simply navigating the online world alone.
Assessments could be done in many ways, and it troubles me that the Ministry of Education is unable to help schools create more favourable ways of assessing children.
Permit me to suggest two things:
1. Any assessment done at this time should not have the rigidity of a time constraint that does not consider possible hours of poor internet connections, device failure, and “human meltdown” from sheer frustration.
2. No more than two exams should be given to any child, on any given day.
Online teaching is a new experience for many of us but that does not mean that we must always make such a mess of things.
Let us not forget that the classroom belongs to our children, and it is our duty to try our best to create a learning environment that does not set children up for failure.
Adriana S. King
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