Evaluation of the assessment system in Nepalese schools compared to the Irish system
Educators in Nepal have started to question the school education assessment system that currently exists here. The current assessment system is still based on a structured paper-and-pencil test, which requires students to take a formal test or exam for one and a half to three hours at least three times a year. The question arises here: does the assessment system in Nepalese school education prepare students to face a test or examination, or does it help them improve their life skills and learning by identifying their potential areas for improvement?
Let’s look at this in relation to the rating system in Ireland.
Does this system help students become critical thinkers?
Students do not become critical, or are not expected to be, in answering questions on a test. Rather, they regurgitate what they have memorized while preparing for a test.
Some questions close to those that would appear in the tests are debated vehemently in class as if they were weapons to be carried by the students to fight in an upcoming war. This practice can instill fear of exams in students, and in the meantime, those students who may need guidance during their studies may be psychologically tormented due to the pressure of testing.
These students are graded at least three times a year, and their test performance is reported largely on the basis of numbers or grades that barely accompany formative feedback.
The test becomes a standard criterion for judging their potential, which categorizes them into students who do well or poorly in their studies, and it can subtly indicate success or failure. And when the result is broadcast to the parents, at this stage, the baton is transferred to them. These poor parents treat their children as they want to treat them based on their test results.
To a large extent what happens in the current assessment system is that the majority of these children are scolded and reprimanded by their parents because there is always a possibility of not doing well in one of the subjects of a test.
Prem Phyak, a Nepalese pedagogue, says that this type of assessment system accustoms children to competition rather than cooperation in learning, and this practice is closely linked to the neoliberal framework that promotes the commodification of student grades. and enhances competition in this world. .
This system also has a strong influence on teaching and learning, which is called the washing effect of the evaluation. During regular teaching and learning, students try to look for clues to prepare for exams, and teachers are also under pressure to complete a designated syllabus for exams. Thus, in general, preparing students for life and promoting their skills to critically assess content/situations is overshadowed in regular teaching and learning in Nepal’s current assessment system.
The difference between the Nepalese and Irish grading systems
Recently I spoke to one of the Nepalese students who is in an Irish secondary school but is familiar with the Nepali assessment system as she underwent it before joining the Irish school in 2020.
She says she only takes one test at the end of an academic year in Ireland. They are asked very limited questions and the time they spend for a test is one and a half hours for each subject. She feels no pressure. In her scorecard, she gets detailed feedback that clearly indicates areas she can still improve.
These comments are not only based on his test performance, but also on his overall course attendance that year. Those who don’t do well on a test are given additional support another year, so the test is mostly related to the formative aspect. Interestingly, she says she felt like crying while taking exams in Nepal, but in Ireland she feels no pressure.
This brief anecdote from a Nepalese student who is in the Irish education system sets the stage for challenging the Nepalese assessment system in school education, and it also subtly indicates the need for changes in current assessment practice.
This does not mean that the Nepalese education system must be completely transformed, but it does show that there are a large number of points to remember if we closely analyze the anecdote of the Nepalese pupil mentioned above.
The list of questions that emerge here are: what are the objectives of a test or examination? How to define the tests or examinations? How does a particular form of assessment influence teaching and learning? What other repercussions can students experience from having such a formal test conducted several times a year? Do we really need multiple formal structured tests or exams each year? For whose benefit do we carry out tests or examinations?
There is no doubt that the recent pandemic has given educational institutions in Nepal an opportunity to have some flexibility in student assessment. Assessment was also made on the basis of learners’ participation in their regular teaching, including the submission of student assignments and projects.
Even pandemic education policies such as Facilitating Student Learning Guidelines 2020 room for a continuous evaluation system. However, as structured formal tests or examinations are deeply rooted in Nepalese education, the traditional structured assessment is not completely abandoned yet.
Isn’t it time now to transform the practice of assessment and prepare students to acquire and improve life skills instead of preparing them to face a test?