Evaluation reform: the right way to evaluate PARAKH

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By Ashok Pandey

Most major educational institutions enthused with the National Education Policy (NEP 2020) and Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav (AKAM) were lit up in tricolor to celebrate the 75th Independence Day. Prime Minister Narendra Modi invoked the NEP to play a vital role in transforming India into a fully developed nation as it reaches its 100th Independence Day as he spoke from the ramparts of the Red Fort.

All necessary earthworks are in progress; the policy is about to kick off with the release of the National Curriculum Framework, for which feverish nationwide consultations are underway. NEP 2020, which draws inspiration from the world’s best educational models, India’s knowledge system, the country’s aspirations and international benchmarking, has suggested far-reaching reforms in curriculum, pedagogy and learning. ‘Evaluation.

Evaluation reform in the country has been on a rollercoaster ride over the past decades. Summative external examinations testing memory, recall and textual reproduction have drawn a good deal of criticism, but little has been done to change the situation. The continuous and comprehensive assessment system introduced in 2010 had a concise lifespan, and we were back to old habits in less than five years. Other attempts at assessment reform, such as the introduction of open-book tests, values-based questions, higher-order thinking skills, and more recently concept/skills-based questions , have been done. However, at best, these attempts were half-hearted plug-ins, ill-prepared, disjointed, and unaligned with pedagogy and learning outcomes.

During this time, the world has evolved. Assessment for learning as opposed to assessment of learning is gaining acceptance, making formative assessment necessary. A good mix of school-based assessment and externally administered testing, encompassing self-assessment and peer assessment, exploring a multidimensional approach to testing, and monitoring learning progress that addresses the learner’s unique skills are well-recognized components of a holistic assessment.

The NEP 2020 rightly recognized the need for assessment reform by envisaging the National Assessment Center PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Examination and Knowledge Analysis for Holistic Development), which would set standards and prescribe standards to improve the education system. The government has invited global consultants to help set up the center. It is expected to revolutionize education rooted in research, theory and practice.

The word PARAKH – as many people would know in Hindi – is a description encompassing recognition, discovery, exploration, test of adequacy, identification of virtues and perhaps more. Given the context, educational institutions will need to shift from the traditional mindset of a ceremonial paper-and-pen test to one based on a love of learning as opposed to academic rigor, grace before scoring and an attitude of identifying what the child knows and not what she does not. An inventory of educational tools must have a corresponding inventory of assessment tools.

For PARAKH to deliver on its promises, many innovations in assessment will need to be incorporated into the system. Concept maps – a visual representation of the connections between learned concepts – are, for example, an exciting way to assess learned concepts. The teacher can share an incomplete concept map for children to complete. Students can store and organize artifacts such as written assignments, pictures, and videos in electronic portfolios to reflect on their learning experiences, which can be another innovation.

We may encourage students to create a podcast or vlog project and submit their analyses, reports and diagrams as evidence of their learning. Done collaboratively, it has the potential to foster peer-to-peer learning and students’ interest in each other’s development. The media is now a major influencer, and we see even young children imitating journalists. They naturally exhibit conversational, reporting and interviewing skills. It’s a clue to how the traditional classroom presentation can be replaced by a talk show performance – as a more authentic version of embodied learning.

The NEP 2020 offers a host of sample and population tests to identify learning gaps. These will be school-based, board-administered and externally surveyed. However, on-demand review, assessment tools as learner choice, review to get the best out of the learner, and review as a feedback loop to improve teaching and learning remain at the heart of any evaluation reform. Will PARAKH live up to its expectations?

The author is an educationist based in Delhi.

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