Every year in June, there are news flashes about who passed and failed the high school SEE tests. But how good are these exams?
Evaluation was changed into grading system to make it more descriptive and holistic, but all that happened was that numbers were converted into letter-grades. Exams still fail to capture the true sense of a students’ ability, and SEE questions are still primarily memory based.
The curriculum also provides guidelines for evaluation, and to receive an A+, a student must possess exceptional skills of ‘problem-solving, creativity, critical expression and participation’. But exams do not measure any such abilities.
Many teachers and parents believe that good exam results indicate quality, so teachers teach to enable students to pass the existing exams, making them memorise facts and practice on past papers. But if exams themselves were to improve to ask analytical questions, students would do even more poorly because they are only taught to regurgitate text book content.
“Without teachers being trained to foster skills and thoughts in students, we are now limited to asking traditional questions,” says Chandra Mani Paudel of the National Examinations Board.
Paudel says he has started work to change this by improving questions so that they will measure application and thinking skills, beyond what is just memory-based. The Board has already started training teachers on better question-setting.
Paudel says he plans to completely change the existing focus by empowering teachers, preparing quality questions and researching about how it affects students. He adds: “This is new and will take time. It will also need support from the Education Ministry to take it forward.”