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Opinions of Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Columnist: Amoah, Anthony Kwaku

When School-Based Assessments Are Defective

By Anthony Kwaku Amoah

School-based Assessment (SBA) is a kind of assessment carried out in schools by pupils' own teachers, with the prime purpose of improving pupils' learning-Richard DLC, Gonzales.
He further describes SBA as a formative and diagnostic task geared towards improving the quality of teaching, learning and the mode of assessment itself.
There cannot be any effective teaching and learning without valid, reliable, well structured and coordinated assessment and evaluation. Teaching and learning, we all know, involves a teacher and a learner. In fact, it is a two-way communication link. Teaching and learning is said to be effective when a given learning experience is properly assessed and evaluated.
No matter the mode of assessment, there is the need for the instructor to take critical look at some factors. Any assessment to be conducted has to be within learners’ level, must focus on the learning experience being assessed, should be time specific, well conducted and easy to interpret. Simply put, it must be valid, reliable, consistent and user-friendly.
A teacher who has taught a lesson very well but failed to assess learners is just like the one who has not taught anything at all. A good teacher must assess pupils regularly and undertake proper evaluation of any lesson delivered. The focus is usually not on the form of assessment, per se but its reliability and effectiveness.
Assessment of pupils and lesson evaluation is a continuous process. It continues until a course of study is completed. Final examination, in our part of the world, puts the learner on an academic weighing scale with results forwarded to the learner in the form of a slip or a certificate. In the educational parlance, this is termed as summative assessment. Emphasis is usually laid on academics. Affective forms of learning, including acquisition of values, norms, mores and general behavior are often not graded.
The premise of this material is to briefly talk about how school-based assessments can be made more effective and reliable. I believe in the fact that the performance of a pupil in any examination also depends on the school. Sometimes, it is intricate to fathom why after going through nine years or three years of studies with many assessments, a pupil is declared a failure in an hour or so final examination. What has really gone wrong?
Our education system has made serious provision for school-based assessment, as also referred to as “Continuous Assessment”. Every teacher is required to make some assessments on their pupils and appropriately document them. Without this, teaching and learning is incomplete. Before, during and after any lesson, pupils are supposed to answer some written and verbal queries for grading. Though it appears a huge chunk of teachers disregard the scoring of verbal tasks, a few still attach some value to them. In some kindergarten and primary schools, for instance, language lessons involving reading and dictations are given some weights and subsequently recorded on pupils’ continuous assessment forms.
For education to be effective, teachers and learners need to engage in regular assessment and evaluation of their ventures. As pupils are made to go through well constructed and administered tests, teachers must also take the trouble to do proper judgments of pupils’ responses. This enables the teacher to identify the real weaknesses and strengths of learners for new and better strategies to be mapped out towards meeting pupils’ expectations. It therefore makes no sense for a teacher to administer a test paper without marking it.
Teachers and education workers must emphasize on the rules and regulations governing examinations to pupils. Since school-based assessments directly affect the overall performance of pupils in final examinations, there is the need for teachers to maintain standards. For how long can we continue experiencing negative reports of cancellation and suspension of pupils’ results emanating from examination malpractices?
Schools must rebuke lazy pupils who would want to pass their examinations through nefarious activities. Teachers must exhibit high level professionalism in the discharge of their duties. Favoritism and victimization of pupils during instructional measurements, assessments and evaluations must be eschewed. Pupil records should not be faked on the basis of gender, tribe, personal relationship, family or whatever. There is the need for reliability at all times.
Schools should desist from faking pupils’ internal records just to produce good results for glorification. What is needed is hard work and determination. However, I oppose those advocating for the removal of the West African Examinations Council’s thirty percent quota of school-based records on first and second cycle students.
Since a child spends the bulk of his/her life in the school and is also made to take several tests, it would be meaningless for such a child to show up in any external examination with no record of performance.
My suggestion is for the school to ensure efficient administration of all assessments on pupils. Teachers can be made to administer their own quizzes, class tests, home works and project works under the supervision of head teachers. With syllabi as guides, a district or municipal or metropolitan directorate of education can conduct examinations for schools under its jurisdiction. If done well, I believe the perception that some schools present faked marks on their pupils for use by WAEC will reduce, if not completely eliminated.