National Assessment– Testing The System: Part 1

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In one of our previous articles, we defined assessment as a multifaceted interactive and iterative process of gathering and evaluating information on what students know, understand, and can do. And that information collected helps plan better for effective subsequent learning. We also explored the relationship between assessment and research. That research is a systematically conducted assessment to among other things, improve the way we conduct assessment. As such, assessment can be conducted as examinations or research/survey.

While assessment designed and conducted as examinations is designed to test the learner, that designed and conducted as national assessments or national surveys test the educational system. National Assessment measures the performance of the education system itself, through administering tests to learners.

 National assessment is therefore a systematic regular measure of learning achievement in a country designed to assist policy making. That is, it is done repeatedly after a specified period of time, normally on a certain grade/level – Say on three subjects at Standard 5. Educational policies formulated to improve the quality of education and subsequently the quality of life of the citizens should be based on empirical evidence.

In the early years of independence, it was enough for learners to have access to education. But today, learners should access to quality education. As such, it is important that time and again we audit whether what we are teaching/offering is relevant and whether learners are learning it.

Assessing students’ academic achievement is a complex process that requires the consideration of many different factors, including which competencies to assess, how to assess them, and which processes will yield valid and reliable data on student achievement and are realistic to implement given local conditions and resource constraints.

In conducting a national assessment survey, there must be a specific aim that the country intends to address. In other words, we should know what we need to know, that can improve the education system, by conducting the national assessment. It may be the question of, whether there is provision of quality education to all regions; or whether primary school teachers need more training in some curriculum subjects than in others; or whether the national standard of education is rising or falling; or whether the education given in educational institutions relate to the world of work.

Once the aim is clear, the assessment can be conducted in a variety of ways, bearing in mind the type of information desired. Similarly, the type of tests administered will also be dependent on the kind of competencies to be evaluated. We know learners learn by reading and writing, communicating, conducting practicals and performances. Therefore, administering a written test when you want to determine whether there is transfer of skills will yield invalid information that would mislead policy formulation. As such, administering the most appropriate test format is important.

Similarly, administering tests designed for any other purpose, say selection purpose, will yield inappropriate information, because the purpose of selection tests is to differentiate between learners, yet in national assessment survey, individual achievement is of no significance. Hence any test designed for one purpose may not necessarily be fit and useful for another purpose.

Join us in our next article, as we will be looking at the differences between national assessment and national examinations.

Yes, it’s possible!

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