Friday, 17 September, 2021
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Plan to Introduce ‘Diagnostic Assessment’ in Grade Six Calls for Appreciation

Masum Billah

Plan to Introduce ‘Diagnostic Assessment’ in Grade Six Calls for Appreciation
Masum Billah

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The students who get enrolled in class six after crossing the bar of PECE examination show a considerable amount of weakness and learning gap and its percentage is more or less 75. These students continue their studies with that weakness and learning gap and eventually get dropped out of school by the time they reach class eight. This is the second largest cause of dropout after poverty. In order to address this gap the ministry of education under its SEDP project is going to introduce ‘diagnostic assessment’ in grade six. It will help identify the real weak areas of the learners and adopt some remedial measures.

In order to determine students' individual strengths, weaknesses, knowledge, and skills prior to starting a new stage of education is usually known as ‘diagnostic assessment’ which is practiced in some countries of the world. It tends to diagnose the difficulties of the learners and to guide lesson and curriculum planning. However, from psychological aspect, young learners may feel or develop a negative idea in their mind as they are going to be coloured ‘weak’ and ‘different’  other segment of students. For this reason, psychologists stand against this approach. However, students naturally get divided into several categories on the basis of their performance, academic understanding, or the rate of participation in the classroom activities or actively attending games and sports or performance in the cultural fields as either of these areas draws teachers’ attention. When identification of individual weakness is done, teachers can provide instruction to address learning needs.

On 24 September 2020 the Education Minister suggested some guidelines regarding the scheme ‘Improving student’s readiness for secondary education and national assessment of secondary students’ and accordingly the project is being redesigned. When the scheme will be finalised it will be placed before BMC committee of the ministry for their opinion and feedback. On 02 August 2021 in presence of education minister, deputy minister, education secretary, DG-DHSE and DG-Madrasa and Technical Education, experts and I myself attended a workshop held on this issue. In the workshop it was decided to test students’ competency in Bengali, English and Mathematics. In English the grammar and vocabulary was proposed to be tested. However, we advocated putting emphasis on language test making grammar test contextually. We also emphasised to introduce ‘listening’ and `speaking’ test that was appreciated by both the Minister for Education and the Deputy Minister.

Usually the pass rate in PECE examination is 98 percent and out of them 96.5 percent get admission in class six. It’s true that the dropout rate in secondary level has decreased considerably. Still 25 percent students drop out before completing their grade eight and 36.7 percent drop out before completing SSC level (BANBEIS). In the backdrop of such picture of drop out, the plan to introduce diagnostic assessment is a welcome move. Teachers can plan meaningful and efficient instruction and can provide students with an individualised learning experience through this kind of step. However, students will not have to take extra preparation to take this diagnostic test and the test will be taken in the respective classroom and its results will not be published like public examinations. It will be absolutely school based. The schools will have to develop a report on the basis of this test of weak students. This kind of approach is available in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and UK and USA. Of course, in these countries it is conducted school wise. However, in our country DSHE wants to introduce it centrally at the initial stage. When the school will show their ability to arrange it individually, it will be decentralised. Many steps lie ahead to start the test such as  informing the heads of educational institutions, developing test items and piloting, conducting test, developing results and report, developing remedial materials. So, they want to start the procedure in August, distributing papers in November and arranging training for teachers in January and conducting the test in February and March.

Some of the teachers/officials set the examples of developed countries such as Canada, America, Australia and UK where ‘diagnostic assessment’ has been in vogue. But we need to consider our context. Many important things happen in those countries that we cannot afford to follow because of our financial crisis, culture, tradition and environment. So, the things which fit our culture and tradition can be adopted, not all the aspects of education in developed countries. Detailed discussion was held on how to conduct remedial classes after identifying the weakness of the learners, when to conduct classes,  how long, by whom and whether teachers to be given remuneration and how to make it sustainable. Also DSHE wants to include it in the teachers’ training. Many of them did not want to give remuneration to the teachers. However, I am in favour of giving remuneration to the teachers. It is far better than allowing so-called private tuition in the schools than introducing such type of arrangement. More importantly the poor guardians will have not to pay exorbitant amount of private tuition fee as it happens in many schools that students are compelled to receive private tuition at the cost of money. This trend and traditions will disappear if such arrangement can be started. The same teachers/officials want to include remedial classes in normal classes. This is also another blunder. How things will be addressed if remedial materials are used in the usual class? All the students will not be included in the remedial class, we assume. What will happen to them if extra materials are used in the common class?

I found in cadet colleges new intakes of grade seven have to go through ‘talent show’ and ‘identifying merit’ test even though they have to cross several stages of admission test. Through these assessment and show they are further identified and treated accordingly in the rest of their cadet life. What they exhibit in the `talent show’ and `identifying merit’ test continue till the end of their cadet college life. If some cadets recite poems nicely or sing nicely they have to remain involved with cultural activities throughout their cadet life and they become cultural prefects in the house and centrally. Similarly, those who are good in sports become games prefect. In several of my write-ups I proposed to the education authorities to introduce such type of shows in class six as they will have to mix with different kinds of new students and friends and face a new environment.  If only test to identify their weakness in academic subjects is administered, it may have some negative psychological impact. The opportunities to  show their other talents like dancing, signing, reciting poems, staging dramas, showing leadership quality will make them more motivated and enthusiastic and confident. It will help them cope with the new situation, friends, teachers, and environment. The plan of the ministry will be to play really a significant role to identify and understand learning needs of our learners through both assessment and talent show. 

 

The writer works for

BRAC Education