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12. Evaluation without Exams
by Aruna Raghavan
our schools we have no exams. And every one I meet asks the same questions. How
do you mark your children?
percentage? By grades? Do you have unit tests? How do you average at the end of
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.
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
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
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
Solution : hear English all
the time to improve comprehension.
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.
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
may simplify an instruction into small tasks initially and make them as complex
as you wish with time.
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
child may write long answers but absolutely incomprehensible :He is trying a
‘breathless answer’. He needs to be
taught to write short sentences.
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.
might be more work but it is effective.
It is not impersonal although it is objective.
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: