In response to the article on the proposal by the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) to schools to stop assessing students using exams marks (Daily Monitor, December 4), I am happy about this long overdue transition in Uganda’s education system. Using exam marks as a way of assessing learners is indeed traditional, discriminative, limited in scope, inefficient and does not entirely meet the characteristics of good testing and assessment such as practicability, reliability, validity, authenticity and effect of the test on learners. The current Uganda National Examination Board (Uneb) system seems to promote cram work, reproduction and regurgitation of information by the learners.
If I recall rightly, in both my primary and secondary school time, I have never been subjected to an exam on the speaking and listening skills of the English language, yet it is a known fact that teaching English language involves the teaching of four skills: Speaking, listening, reading and writing. The salient question here is: When is speaking and listening assessed in our formative and summative exams? The main purpose of assessment is to assist learning and thus inform instruction in different domains. This can be effectively done by considering the principles of assessment such as treating assessment as an integral part of instruction and learning, authenticity, continuous and ongoing, developmental and culturally appropriate, collaborative and a reflective process, multidimensional based on how learners learn, their strength and offering of clear performance tasks. At most, all these are not experienced in the current Uneb system.
It is upon this background that I support the NCDC proposal to transition from relying on exam marks to critically assess the learners. Learners have shown that they are different and endowed with different abilities, competences and backgrounds unknown to Uneb officials and examiners. The current Uneb system to a great extent is not efficient in assessing all the English language skills and may be other subjects too.
I would like to propose to the NCDC to adopt the alternative forms of assessment such as use of students and teachers portfolios, conferences, self and peer assessment, journals, hands-on projects and co-operative test construction. These would also mean using assessment techniques such as observation, interview and essays. For this transition to effectively take place and yield positive results, the retooling practice as suggested by the NCDC should not only focus on the teachers but also Uneb, key stakeholders in the Ministry of Education, material developers, head teachers, key persons from higher institutions of learning who equip, train and produce teachers and policy makers. This should be done considering the fact that teachers are not responsible for the former and current assessment trends and approaches.
MA Applied Linguistics student
SOURCE: Daily Monitor