State's (in)competency test: State competency test 'too simple', rue school authorities

Sep 21, 2015, 06:48 IST | Shreya Bhandary

The state education department’s ambitious brainchild— the competency tests— have run into many problems with schools saying that the questions are too simple; education board says questions are simple because they are meant to be basic

The state competency tests seem to have hit another roadblock. Several schools are of the opinion that the tests, designed to gauge the students’ understanding of their previous academic year, are too simple.

In some cases, test papers for three different classes have ended up having the same questions. To add to this list, several schools are yet to receive the papers with the deadline for conducting the tests, September 30, getting closer every day.

Questions from the dictation test for students of Std VI, VII and VIII have been found to be similar. The questions, that are meant to test students on their spelling skills, include words like ‘often’, ‘beautiful’, ‘tomorrow’, ‘surprise’, ‘happiness’, etc. where each correct spelling awards them half a mark. (mid-day has a copy of the test paper for Std VII)

Lack of co-ordination?
Even after postponing these tests for weeks together, most city schools have not received their test papers yet. Some of the schools that were on a five-day Ganpati break said that they had not received the papers till their last working day.

On the other hand, the schools that have received the English test papers were surprised to see that some of the questions for students in Std VI, VII and VIII are similar. Such instances raise questions about the education department’s lack of coordination.

Keeping the same questions for all three classes also defeats the purpose of trying to evaluate a student’s understanding of the previous year’s subjects (the papers have been designed by the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT)).

The State Education Department’s lack of coordination is evident further because they have put together these questions for students of differing classes. The questions would end up looking too easy to students from upper primary classes.

“We were told that there will be different question papers for students from different grades, but the questions seem similar for Std VI, VII and VIII. What’s the use of taking time out to conduct these tests when the government also seems disinterested in putting together the question papers?” asked the principal of a state board school in the suburbs.

A first-of-its-kind initiative to be introduced in the state, the purpose behind the competency tests was to find out the skills acquired by students in the previous academic year, especially to counter the skepticism around the failing standard of education due to the no-fail policy of the Right to Education (RTE) Act.

The government has made it very clear that these competency tests are compulsory for all students and schools of all boards across the state. To their surprise, even after much insistence, the government has not sent a single test paper to non-state board schools.

Official speak
Nand Kumar, Principal secretary of the state’s School Education department told mid-day that the test is compulsory for students of Std II-VIII of all schools (irrespective of their boards), “Those schools that have not received test papers will get them soon.

Some of the questions in the paper will be the same because we are only trying to test the basic language and mathematical skills of students.” He added that once the schools and students get used to giving these tests every year, they will stop complaining.

‘Eeach’ word counts
While reading through the teacher’s copy of the test paper, we noticed that it came with a bunch of typos and grammatical errors.

This struck us as something most ironical, since the paper is meant to test the student’s spelling skills as well as their grammar. One such glaring typo was a guideline on allotting marks that said, ‘eeach’ correct spelling carries ½ mark.

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