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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Is Examination a Reliable Assessment?

Born as a Malaysian, the author scored herself a lucky Permanent Residency "ticket" to stay in Perth, Australia. Currently, she is doing her last year studies in Murdoch University. The author's age is a secret as age is seen as a woman's secret between her and herself. Apart from that, the author is a perfectly normal human who loves to indulge herself with strawberry flavor ice-cream and be pampered with holiday tours. To stay "hype" with the technology, she plays MapleSEA and watch lots of TVB dramas. When she is doing nothing, she will either be reading or sleeping and when she does sleep, it would be best not to disturb her =)

Is Examination a Reliable Assessment?

by AWhite for Writing Contest 2008

In Malaysia, examination is the way to assess student's performances. In fact, there isn't any other form of assessment apart from examination. In reality, the purpose of examination is for a summative evaluation. These evaluations are to see if the students understand and could apply the concepts that they have learned throughout the semester. With the examination being the only form of assessment, therefore, it is crucial that the examination must be able to reflect on student's knowledge and performances. Because, being the nature of examination itself, the assessment is very traditional where student who score A would means that the student has gained knowledge on the particular subjects and vice versa. BUT, does that really mean so? How reliable are these examination in reflecting so?

Let us look at these students:

The "it's-about-getting-more-A" students
- For these students, getting A is their goals. They consider themselves as being academic successful as long as they could score all As for their examinations. Honestly, with the current education system, it does not take a genies to score A. The thing that I want to talk about is, are they getting their priority right? The priorities of these students are supposed to go to school to learn, not emphasis on scoring for their examinations. However, because the nature of assessment in Malaysia focuses on examination, student's priority can get side track and along the way, the process of learning is not viewed as learning but as a process of scoring. This process of scoring really isn't an honest evaluation on their performance... as we go on to the next point.

The "I-have-good-memory" students
These students usually do not have a problem when it comes to examination. All they need to do is to memorize every single fact that they read and ta-da... they did it. Now, this is very common in Malaysia. They might do it for all subjects or for a particular subject. Any students with good memory can score high marks. The thing is, how reliable are these results in reflecting the students' understanding? Take my friend, LZ who was doing pharmacy in one of the local university for an example. LZ has no problem scoring for her examinations but when she comes out and works, she finds it hard to cope because she never understands the concept as well as unsure in applying it. See the discrepancy?

The basic needs of students
The Humanistic philosophies believe that; in order for students to perform well, all basic needs must be provided. This would means looking at student's background as well as teacher's pedagogies. I do not want to go deep into this but I want to pinpoint that, different students with different background will have different expectation in education which will affect their learning abilities. Imagine a student coming from a background where they basic needs are not met, do you think they will perform at their best? For example, student A is from an alcoholic family, however, student A decided that he wants best for himself and study hard for the examination BUT on the night before the examination, his father came home drunk and start abusing him - do you think he will perform well the next day? Let me assure you, he will not. The example may seem a bit exaggerating but we know that Malaysian students comes from different backgrounds with diverse cultures, it would be surprise to hear that not each student's needs is meet.

When we are talking about basic needs, we are also looking at the nature of the examination itself. Some students work best without pressure. This is true. With the time limit given to them, how well do they perform compare to what they would normally have? In this context, the examination failed in providing a reliable reflection on student's best performance.

The spoon feeding students
We usually referred these groups of students as cheaters. Examination being an assessment that is so heavily relied on, in order to perform well, some students will choose to cheat - an easy way out. I don't think I need to elaborate on this - we all know about it.

With the above, clearly examination being the only assessment itself is not a good way of evaluating students. Of course, I could not deny the fact that there are students who do well deserve the merit that they've got but there are many who are out there do not deserve it. The thing is, I felt that assessment itself should be a continuous process, and not just through one process - the examination.

How to make an assessment a continuous process... well, I have a few of the good samples but since this is an article being written for a contest, I go into that the next time.
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1 comment:

  1. Well written.

    Most of the student types you've describe have a very very hard time adjusting to work once they've left school.

    Normally used to simply memorising things and being told exactly what to do all the time, students are completely at a loss when they actually have to think and learn by themselves to get a job done.



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