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12. Evaluation without Exams

by Aruna Raghavan

In our schools we have no exams. And every one I meet asks the same questions. How do you mark your children? By percentage? By grades? Do you have unit tests? How do you average at the end of the year? And when I say we have no formal evaluation they look wild with worry. How can you know your children are doing well?, they ask. Often I am tempted to tell them that they don't need their mothers in law to evaluate their daily cooking. Surely the joy with which the family eats and their health are proof enough. However, since analogy as a style of speech has gone out of fashion, I take them through the process.

The most important point here is why do we need to evaluate? To arrive at an objective analysis so as to allow a teacher to know how well he himself has put across an idea or a theory. It should tell him if he can go on or if he needs to do a remedial. The moment we define the need in these terms, all responsibility lies with the adult. It also allows the teacher/parent to enthusiastically go back, reframe, reword and come up with a winning lesson plan. Such a definition also takes into consideration that while we, as adults, may have thought an idea ridiculously obvious, the child did not find it so. It calls for an honest looking into the topic and seeing it from the child's perspective.

How should one evaluate at the primary level? What should we look for? I shall give a few examples here: most amusing. In an exam paper, the children of the L.K.G. were asked to write A B C D. While all other children wrote all the letters one child seemed to have finished before she began. She had written A B C D. Her paper was marked wrong. However, she had followed instructions perfectly. Her teacher should have said " Write the letters from A to Z."

Here is another story : Standard three : We had a small story written out on the board. There were blanks for all adjectives which the children had to fill in. One child wished to fill in 'lovely' but didn't know how to spell it. In the classroom hung a calendar with the caption "Lovely Goa". The girl walked to the calendar, looked at the spelling and wrote it out. How would you evaluate the child? As a resourceful person? As a cheat? Tradition would say the latter. But in the context of self learning, or child centered learning, the former is better appreciated.

We evaluate with the wish to help a child progress. To know where he is, what his problems are and what we need to do to help him. If a child attending an English medium school requires all that is taught to be translated into his native language, then he knows very little English. The Problem is insufficient listening.

Solution : hear English all the time to improve comprehension.

If a child understands in English but cannot frame his own sentences, the problem is one of usage. The problem is insufficient exposure to language usage.

Solution : have him read simple books that are well written. Ladybird series on ecology or CBT books would be good starters. They are informative and amusing.

If a child requires translation of questions, then his problem is one of not hearing enough instructions in English. Solution : Teach him how to interpret the questions and at home give instructions in English only.

You may simplify an instruction into small tasks initially and make them as complex as you wish with time.

If a child requires help in answering although he knows the language well, the problem may be of cohesion.

Solution : Have him write 10-sentence compositions. Have him number every sentence. Let him read it out to you. Appreciate his ideas. Then show him how he has gone back and forth on a single idea. Renumber the sentences and ask him to write it out. He will see how cohesive it is. I have found 10 to 20 such exercises are enough for child become cohesive.

A child may write long answers but absolutely incomprehensible :He is trying a 'breathless answer'. He needs to be taught to write short sentences.

A child might know his answers but has no idea of the direct-indirect speech. So you might find a composition that reads : My father told me you must go to the zoo. Very offensive to the examiner.

Solution : repeatedly use the indirect at home. Story books use enough indirect speech, read out and have the child read out too.

All this would suggest why we do have no 'exams' in our schools. We evaluate every child thus to know what his problems are and address them. We go by such analysis to ensure that solutions are found and used effectively. Most often we find that problems are language based. We find that the more we strengthen the language the less trouble our children have in learning and in taking exams at the secondary levels.

It might be more work but it is effective. It is not impersonal although it is objective.

And when children do better with each passing day it gives a whole new meaning to the words 'job satisfaction'.

Aruna Raghavan can be contacted at: Dit e-mailadres is beschermd tegen spambots. U heeft Javascript nodig om het te kunnen zien.