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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Comment on Why The Monthly Tests Should Not Be Abolished

Posted by Chong

Below is the comment by Charles. C posted at the post "Why The Monthly Tests Should Not Be Abolished?" It is republished here as it is very thought-provoking and deserves a post of it own so that all readers (especially email subscribers) can read different view on the subject.

Howdy there,

First of all, let me congratulate you for this very thoughtful article, though there are some noticeable grammatical errors in your article.

Being a student who's gone through almost anything (tests, exams, preps - you name it), of course I do concur with you that monthly tests shouldn't be abolished, but that's not just about it.

If our monthly tests (or exams) in schools are to be put under microscope, they are invaluable tools to help students and parents to ONLY help to measure and keep track of how much someone has learned in a series of lessons. Problem is, academic performances in Malaysia (plus elsewhere) are measured via how well you score and maintain your scores in archaic, rigidly designed tests/exams. Having said that, tests have become the necessary evils that we seem unable to dissociate with - we are too used to measure somebody's worth through how good of a Band or grades you have under your belt. I'd of course advocate that we (students, parents, policy makers and everyone) to re-look at the goals of our education system, because tests (monthly or grand ones) are just some of the means to tell if somebody is good enough in a series of pre-determined learning. Instead of using tests, students' portfolios and ongoing assessments should also be considered as alternative forms of assessing a student's achievement and progress in a subject/discipline. There are many government and research sanctioned reports and research that prove that on-going, holistic assessments have helped learners to achieve learning goals as set by the testers. I could go on and talk about these research, but not to hog your space here - I'll try to summarize why on-going, holistic assessments are better than tests:

  1. You go to school to learn, not to see how better you are than everyody else. True pursuit of knowledge means acquiring higher knowledge and is impossible to measure by the way.

  2. A one time test in many cases are worse than an on-going assessment in assessing a learner's true learning progress and ability; test validity (you can google this)is affected by how fair a test is. A method of assessment's fairness and validity is much affected by a lot of factors, and any established researchers in the area of testing will tell you that tests are by themselves not perfect and not the ultimate mean of assessing, if you even care to assess a learning progress mathematically and systematically in the first place.

  3. Monthly tests do not help parents to check on their kids' misbehaviour(s) - tests can only do so much and they only measure if a student has studied what he/she was supposed to study in the first place. An on-going assessment will instead report a student's competency in many areas at a glance - namely academic, people-relationship, spiritual, EQ management and etcetera. Even then, an ongoing assessment does not necessarily do this very well as you can't measure everything under the sun (or moon).

  4. You mentioned that students will not do poorly in school if they study well. But then again, there are again many dimensions to what "doing poorly" means. Do you mean that a student does poorly in school he/she fails exams (as based on a set of indicator) that he/she works so hard on while keeping him/herself out of troubles like drugs and violence? Again, you have to revisit the 1 million dollar question - why do you even attend school in the first place? What goals of learning should take precedence and why?

  5. As an academician/scholar, I find that your statement "if we do not hope to see our educational level drop in a sudden in future, we should not abolish monthly test" is very much unjustified. "Educational level" can be measured in many dimensions, again, and I would like to caution everyone else reading this that TESTS are not the ultimate mean to tell if somebody is doing well or not. The pursuit of knowledge is for the purpose of doing a common good. A welder/fisherman is much more valuable to a country's economy and well-being than a student who does well in "exams" (in the narrowest sense of definition) but could not at all deliver changes/benefits for the good of the mass.

So to conclude, monthly tests shouldn't be abolished if they do help the learners, but again should not be preferred over other available means for the purpose of measuring a person's academic competency alone. You, my dear by the way deserves my salute for being able to write a thought provoking piece of article, and please don't be discouraged by my comments. We are all still learning and I look forward to converse again with you in the future.

Keep up the good work (and writing)!
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