Home > Curriculm and pedagogy > Chicken or the egg? (The causality dilemma)


By G. Balasubramanian

The eternal philosophic debate (the causality dilemma)- whether it was the chicken first or the egg – has haunted many intellectual minds for several centuries. Any allegory of the same to the implementation of certain policies prescribed in the NEP (draft) is but a continuum of such a debate, possibly in a different context. Whatever be the content, is it the pedagogical process that impacts assessment or the assessment that drives the pedagogical process is indeed a good debating point on academic platforms. Evidences are available to support both. “Testing what is taught” and “Testing what is learnt” – both have different strategies for implementation.

The National Education Policy (draft) 2019 has given a series of recommendations to change the process of assessment of the learners alongside its multifarious recommendations for restructuring the curriculum. Having examined a number of socio-economic issues and evils that impact the process of learning and assessment, the draft policy acknowledges the following:

1. There is an excessive focus on rote learning.

2. The current examination systems test only limited competencies and promotes unhealthy competition leading the learner nowhere.

3. The learning by the students is often restricted to a certain period in pre-examination scenario.

4. The learning is focused only to deliver certain end results which are pre-defined and time tested

5. The performance of the learners are not true indicators of their overall learning as well as multi-dimensional skills demonstrated from time to time

And of course, several other indicators like the cut-off for entry to the higher institutions of learning, to meet the demands of peer pressure and parental pressure, and the need to sustain a social ego

The clarion call for change in the system of assessment has been repeatedly given by the “wise” people on several occasions and from several platforms, but nothing tangible has been done, except a few fire-fighting exercises periodically, leaving the infected roots of the system to remain with its staple food. The recommendations of the Kothari commission and subsequently NEP 1986 also stressed on these dimensions. In all these reports including the current one, the need for formative assessment has been stressed which facilitates continuous developmental learning by coming to terms with the inadequacies periodically.

The introduction of Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation by the Government and certain Boards of Education across the country was indeed a positive and a progressive step in this direction. But the philosophy of this concept was sacrificed to meet the administrative inadequacies in its implementation. The poor understanding that no such system can perform successfully without concurrent pedagogical interventions that equally match and facilitate such types of assessments accelerated its derailment. This system repeatedly questioned the authenticity of the teacher, thanks to the mistrust that grew along with its inception. While one cannot rule out the dishonest interests trying to intervene in any robust system, one must understand that a system should not be sacrificed because of the lack of integrity of some of its stakeholders.

Detailing the objectives of the assessment the document says:

1. It should be formative and facilitate further learning (focus on assessment for learning)

2. It should help in filling learning gaps

3. It should test conceptual clarity

4. It should discourage rote learning

5. It should promote problem solving and creative thinking skills

6. It should encourage analysis, scientific temper and logical thinking

7. It should be “easy” and test only core competencies.

8. It should discourage coaching cultures.

9. It should not be “high stake” causing competitive and performance stress

10. It should not be a determinant for the entry point to higher learning

Suggesting a few strategies for revamping assessment systems, the commission recommends

a. Conduct of standardizing Census Examinations at the end of classes 3, 5 and 8 by the Boards of Assessment

b. Replacement of the school’s examinations by the “modular Board examinations” by the respective Board after each semester

c. Conduct of semester examinations from classes 9 to 12. (Two per year) by the Boards of Assessment

d. Provision of a wide variety of subjects for study and assessment by the learners (freedom of choice to learn) – scope for over 40+ subjects in the secondary stage

e. Provision for taking different subjects in each semester (with some essential core subjects) and the facility for taking 4 subjects at every semester

f. Provision for taking additional languages after class 6

g. Additional Board examinations for various subjects -both academic and vocational as preferred by the examinee

h. Conduct of practical and skill assessments at the school level with monitoring of quality

i. The facility for taking examinations in a given subject in any semester, subject to the readiness of an examinee

j. Facility to promote singular interests through enabled assessment supports to nurture talents (online supports)

k. Conduct of Olympiads and competitions to nurture and promote talents

The suggestions and recommendations of the commission are indeed steps in the right direction. The challenge, however, lies in the willingness of the political and administrative heads to see the meaning underlying in these recommendations for an aspiring and ambitious country to emerge. I often recall an interesting writing I read about the role of the teacher (which applies to any policy on education) which said “My dear teacher, your job is not to take a horse to the pond to drink water, but your job is to create a thirst in the horse, so that it automatically goes to the pond to drink water.”

I have always felt that Indian Education System has the potential to be a global leader in school education, if there is willingness to remove the cobwebs and dirt that seem to create an image of horror in this beautiful edifice. The system needs people who understand education rather than who could blindly administer education because they are vested with the power to do so.

*This article was originally written on LinkedIn.https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/chicken-egg-causality-dilemma-curriculum-assessment-which-g/

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