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Meeting future challenges

Do the marks the students have obtained give a clear picture of the knowledge they have acquired?   | Photo Credit: Jothi Ramalingam B.

When the Tamil Nadu Board Class 12 exam results were released last week, headlines read: “100% pass rate”. “Best pass percentage witnessed yet”. All the 816,473 students who had registered were declared passed. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of students got their certificates without acquiring knowledge or achieving educational outcomes. Marks were awarded on the basis of performance in Class 10, 11 and 12, with the last getting just 30% weightage.

According to media reports, 30,600 students have scored above 550 marks out of 600 marks in the science stream this year. Last year, this number was 1,867. How do we measure student knowledge and skills? How fair was the weightage system, which gave 50% to Class 10 marks and 20% to Class 11? Do the marks obtained give a clear picture of the students’ knowledge? What will be the impact on society in the future? Many such questions have been raised.

This unprecedented situation is not specific to Tamil Nadu but is common to the country. Expressing disapproval of students being promoted, Wipro Chairman Azim Premji said, “The worst thing that we could do is to ignore the past one and a half years and just keep promoting children to the next class without helping them to learn what they should have learned. We can create an enormous deficit, which can never be filled up otherwise.”

Revisit goals

Instead of blaming it on COVID-19, we should try to find solutions to the problems that plague our education system. In this context, it is important to revisit our educational goals and reflect on these questions: Does our education system enable students to learn better and achieve educational outcomes? Are we — school administrators, teachers, parents, and students — obsessed with formal exams? Are there better ways of assessing student knowledge and skills? Do schools enable students to think logically and communicate their ideas effectively? Does the system promote learner autonomy and enable students to learn on their own? Does our education system prepare students to meet the challenges of the future?

Attending classes and reading course material are not the only ways of learning. Students can learn in many other ways. During the pandemic, many students have learnt to use technology and online resources effectively. By motivating and giving them opportunities to put their knowledge into practice through innovative and collaborative projects and assignments, teachers can help students learn better.

Unfortunately, many school administrators and teachers think that traditional exams are the only way to assess student knowledge and skills. Such exams test memory skills, not thinking and application skills. Alternative assessments measure student competencies in a non-threatening environment throughout the course. Holistic in nature, the goal of alternative assessments is to suggest improvements and help students build their confidence and develop their learning ability. Self- report, observation, discussions, quiz, homework, portfolio, practical work, demonstration, class activities and oral presentations can be conducted to assess what students can and cannot do. These help students develop their thinking skills and creativity.

Promote learner autonomy

Helping students acquire knowledge in different subjects alone is not enough. Schools should also focus on helping students develop their reasoning and communication skills. By giving adequate importance to language skills and creating opportunities to demonstrate their communication ability, this goal can be achieved. but teachers need to be trained for this purpose.

It is the teachers’ responsibility to empower students and promote learner autonomy by helping them know what, why and how they learn. When students take responsibility for their own learning, they will have a range of strategies and apply them flexibly in different situations. This will motivate them to achieve their educational goals.

The pandemic has taught everyone that to be prepared for challenges and adapt to the new normal. Our education system should instil confidence in students and prepare them to face challenges boldly. As Robert Frost says, “Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.”

The writer is an ELT resource person, columnist and teacher trainer. rayanal@yahoo.co.uk

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Printable version | Sep 29, 2021 6:58:42 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/do-the-class-12-board-exam-marks-give-a-clear-picture-of-students-knowledge/article35506063.ece

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