Education and Training Sector Strategic Plan (ETSSP) reflects on the need to develop new and alternative pathways in the education system especially at secondary school level. This appreciation is premised on the grounds that all learners are very capable of tremendous achievements through their talents and abilities. It is based on the fact that no child is born with inability status or condition. Therefore, it is just a matter of nurturing and developing one’s abilities for them to play a meaningful role in the society. Since Multiple Pathway implementation is nigh, I want to submit my view on the type of assessment that I believe will serve us well in that regard.
Continuous Assessment (CA) is a form of educational examination that evaluates a student’s progress throughout a prescribed course (Wikipedia, October 2018). It is often used as an alternative to the final examination system. For most subjects, the current assessment approach in Botswana basic education is such that only the final examination has some bearing on the overall grading of a student. In light of this, learners have come to realise the importance of doing well during the final examination only and put less effort on school based assessments. The judgement role in this summative approach renders useless the developmental role in the formative approach. Is it the ‘process’ or the end product that really matters?
Continuous Assessment has abundant purposes to serve including determining students learning achievement, identify their learning difficulties for special support, to improve teacher’s pedagogical practices and to improve the quality of education in general. Thus, its success should be measured in terms of opportunities it provides for educational quality enhancement. The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA, 2003) contends that assessments operate to improve students learning, not solely to measure it but also to move students from the current standings to where they would like to be. Similarly, UNICEF (2000) cited in the General Education Quality Assurance and Examination Agency (GEQAEA, 2008) that frequent assessment and feedback is one of the variables that contribute to better student learning outcomes and quality education. Birhanu (2013) and Desalegn (2014) both documented that Continuous Assessment is a good practice for improving student’s performance, monitoring students, improve methods of teaching and grading student’s achievement.
Achieving the aims of quality education and improved learning outcomes requires strengthening inputs, processes, evaluation of education outcomes and mechanisms to measure progress (UNESCO, 2015 paragraph 9). This assertion ascertains the importance of measuring the process. The means to success are more vital than success itself. That is why in modern teaching and learning, we are advised to provide the success criteria to learners and allow them to figure out the strategy on how to arrive to the success. Measuring this strategy means continuous assessment. It can be very precise, nuanced and comprehensive in appraising and informing the cultivation of student’s personal competencies, including such skills as collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, confidence, perseverance, curiosity and planning.
A lot of literatures and scientific evidence have revealed that many educators and learners view Continuous Assessment as merely assessment of learning (summative), barring assessment for learning (formative) aside. For instance, Obioma and Babajide (2013) have investigated that many teachers misapplied the continuous instruments leading to more continuous testing instead of continuous assessment. Issues of plagiarism are also rendering continuous assessment ineffective. As a country, we need to see beyond these challenges and pursue our goal. It is my view that we adopt continuous assessment prior to multiple pathway implementation. Not only are we going to improve the quality of learning and teaching, we are also going to develop our quality assurance capabilities. In Israel for example, fifty percent of a student’s final grade is school based assessment, living the other fifty to be determined by the national examination authorities. In addition, 30 percent of the national examination is project related, which is also carried out and monitored by the school authorities. This enhances the significance of a school to a child. It also calls for improvement in quality assurance within schools. School self-evaluation standards need to be improved and adhered to.
Multiple pathways will at some point require outsourcing of independent assessors. This will cater for pathways which will generally require learners to demonstrate competencies and skills as a means to the end. This can only be possible if it is done as school based assessment. In order to prepare ourselves for such a noble idea, we ought to start using the technology with the current set up, especially now that our education and training calendar is being disrupted every now and then by the novel coronavirus. It is time we really considered Continuous Assessment across all curriculum as a viable means to assess impartment of skills and competencies.