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Testing and Reporting "SPECIFICITY DESTROYS HARMONY''

Two of the most excruciating areas of school education for a sensitive teacher are testing and
reporting. While they seem unrelated to the casual observer, the connections are apparent to any
perceptive person.
When a teacher administers a test to a class, or an exam several things happen. First we have to
go beyond the behavioural manifestations. There is fear - fear of nor doing well enough, of being at
the bottom of the class, falling is the esteem of the teacher, fear of what parents will say& do etc.
It is surely clear to a person who is being tested if there is any other motive other selection or
rejection, certifications as successful or failure for the whole process. Most teachers are also not
clear about any other reason for testing. Two radical perceptions may open out the debate in this
regard:
1.
Testing is simply a way for a teacher to know what the students' have learnt through his/her
interaction.
2.
No test is complete or right if it does not enhance the students' understanding of the
subject and teach him/her something which he/she not know (P. K. Srinivasan)
The first statement stands the whole process of traditional testing and examinations on its head
and appears to snatch all known cornerstones away. Nor for marking, nor to tell the student where
he stands, nor for ranking or grading or testing what the student knows but as feedback for the
teacher. This seems to genuine and simple. When I teach a group of students' about one aspect of
life and living. It must be important for me to find out what has `actually' got communicated. In an
environment which is riddled with comparison, competition and judgement, it is very difficult to
stay on the edge of this intention. Somehow in the educational environment the accent shifts subtly
& surely to tests being a measure of the student's capacity, understanding skill etc. While it is
impossible to deny that a piece of writing or the way one approaches a problem is a measure of what
one understands, it is not clear how this tells the teacher anything about the quality or
effectiveness of his communication. So a teacher needs to be clear Is my test
to gain feedback on what has actually happened in the teaching learning process
or
for the student to get a realistinc understanding of himself
or
to find out where the student stands with respect to other students
There is a deeper issue involved also. How specific can one's knowledge be about the students'
ability, capacity etc? How accurately can one assess how effective one has been? The more
specifically one gets to know about the students knowledge of mathematics the less one seems to
comprehend the whole person. One needs to know - but how much and what kind of knowledge is not
terribly clear.
For example one has to only approach a large tree or a nearby mountain and ask oneself how large,
tall, vast, how many birds, length of shadow, colour of leaves and trunk etc kind of questions. All
measured quantities will be accurate and can be agreed upon by everyone. At the end of the

exercise the unquantifiables, relationship of the tree to the ground, its majesty, smell, shape and
mysterious nature, can stay complete out of the reckoning. Testing is like this and teacher may find
out a lot of specific and know very little. How to hold the specifics in the field of the
unquantifiables is the an art important for a teacher to learn and teach. More than the right answer
students need to learn the art of holding the whole of a person, a whole situation, the whole world.
Only then can one hold, can one relate and respond wholly. This is needed for one's life and living.
Twice every year reports go home from schools, borne in the bags of the described, assessed,
students. Usually reports carry numbers against subjects with a remark against each subject and a
general remark about the student and the class position. Everyone but the student who is first rank
in class can be asked "why did you not do better? And the first student can be asked why 98 and
not hundred? If the numbers are insufficient, in the opinion of the parents or teachers, tuition
classess are the result. Tuitions also serve the purpose of keeping the young one out of mischief in
their leisure while doing something useful.
We can see easily that a few numbers do not do justice to the child. Institutions that have arrived
at this threshold have attempted other formats. When one tries to get wider in scope and content
there are difficult situations one encounters.
For eg. An English report could say:
Needs to be careful about spelling,
uses language well in descriptive usages,
tends to be inattentive to content,
has wide vocabulary but uses a narrow range.
Each of the lines may be specific and accurate based on the teachers' observation, to hold these
together and retain a human vision of the person behind is not easy. Parents may feel than they do
not know where the student stands or that the report is vague.
The report reveals what the teacher feels about the child. For balance in the communication
between teacher and student, teacher and parents, there have to be same specific details and
these have to be embedded is a matrix of unquantifiables. This appears the only way in which the
report overtly or covertly will nor become an instrument of coercions, judgement, indignity.
Samples of reporting possibilities are enclosed. A great deal is taught through reports, things said,
unsaid and how said. In a teachers' mandate of attending to the actual, the actual learning of
the student, the place of reports cannot be neglected. Now a school is more than one teacher and
each person has a style and an emphasis. To move beyond mere numbers on reports is extremely
demanding for a school as one then enters the murky waters of contradictions, debates and
personalities. It is impossible for a school to arrive at a clear and good policy on
reporting style and content without a mechanism of reflection, discussion and
growth for teachers. In short a group of educators who are unable to find space and time to
enter the eternal debates on educational questions will not be able to arrive at a sane and humane
reporting policy. It may appear a simple matter to lay down a policy in print (as in Appendix) but to
find a way of implementing this in spirit and letter is no easy task for any collective.
Appendix A
Sample Policy on Reports
1. For clarity and consistency about what is being reported a few (4 or 5) clear dimension may be

chosen based on the type of experiences the teacher has attempted to create. There can be
chosen from the following for Junior and Middle and Senior school.
Table
2. The following phrases must be used with reservation/qualifications only.
Can do better.
Needs to work more
Is not organized
Unable to pay attention
3. Some of the words which can be used in describing students' performance and attributes are
given below.
4. The spirit of a report should be such that it communicates that
-each child is an individual
-each person has different capacities
-many capacities are talent.
-a child is more than the measurable and quantifiables.
-Do more is no solutions
-The right steps to help a child discover confidence and inner discipline are neither obvious or easy
to come upon patience and watching without anxiety
TESTING AND EXAMINATIONS
We can begin with two rather well known perceptions and then examine the ground testing and
examinations. u
1. Any test or examination which does not enhance the knowledge or capacity of the child is not
suitable. (P. K. Srinivasan)
2. No person other than the teacher of the child can test the child on what he or she has learnt.
(Annie Besant)
By the first statement most tests and examinations fall short. Usually a test or exam is meant for
the adult to understand what the child has learnt. This can then be converted to marks or grades.
The child can be acted upon to do better. The usual strategy for this improvement is to `do more'.
More tuition, more home work etc. It is a rare teacher who asks
What way has my student's capability improved through what I am asking him /her to do?
Is the student gaining in self confidence or is he growing dependent on me?
Is the student mind stretching ahead, ? or
Is the student learning a new fact or new skill, ?
Most exam and tests fall short of even their own objectives. For example, all would easily agree
that a test should reveal the understanding of the student. A scrutiny of test papers will reveal
however that tests require a student excel.