Mumbai principals say students gain nothing from competency tests
Schools across Maharashtra will hold the first of the three competency tests for the academic year 2017-18 for Class 1 to Class 8 between September 7 and 12. The tests will be conducted to asses their basic learning levels, as mandated by the state.
However, city principals argued that students do not benefit from these tests as they are conducted haphazardly. Moreover, the government neither shares the results, nor proposes remedial programmes.
The tests were introduced in 2015 by education minister Vinod Tawde as part of the Pragat Maharashtra programme to measure the learning levels and quality of education in state schools. But, the initiative was criticised for its poor execution. Last year, several principals pointed out that students got question papers for these tests beforehand.
Although the tests will be on a bigger scale this year, with the inclusion of Class 9 and new subjects, principals are unsure whether it will make any difference.
“For the past two years, these tests failed to add any value to our students,” said a trustee of group of schools in Kandivli and Malad. “Not just private schools, the government has not brought any change in its own schools through these tests.”
One of the major drawbacks of the programme is that lack of clarity over actions to be taken after the tests. The government does not provide an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the pupils, nor does it give any guidance on how to improve performance during the next test.
“The tests are held as a token gesture because of the government pressure,” said Father Francis Swamy, principal, St Mary’s School (ICSE), Mazagaon and joint director of the Archdiocesan Board of Education (ABE), which manages 150-odd schools.
The government resolution (GR) passed in 2015 to introduce the tests states the government should give schools a detailed report and then help them in designing interventions based on it.
“But none of the provisions of the GR are being implemented. The department tells us to assess the tests on our own. There are no checks on whether schools are doing it fairly,” said Swamy.
Educationists complained that though the government took steps to streamline the tests this year, all the important decisions, such as asking all schools to conduct the exams to maintain confidentiality of the papers, were rolled back. Lack of planning is another drawback, the experts pointed out. Since their inception, the test has been prone to frequent delays. This year too the exam schedule was revised thrice — from early August to September.
“If the government wants us to take the exams seriously, it cannot thrust the exams on us at the last minute,” said Uday Nare, senior teacher, Hansraj Morarji Public School, Andheri. “While we put in efforts to plan the academic year in April, the department inadvertently disrupts our schedule by planning these tests at the last minute.”
In contrast, the education department said that the success of the programme is dependent on the schools. “We cannot spoon feed schools. IT is up to them to make use of this tool,” said Nand Kumar, principal secretary, state education department.
Results of the state achievement surveys and competency tests revealed slight improvement in first language and math competencies - language skills improved by 6.08% and numerical skills by 4.02% in the last two years in the tests held in 2016-17 and 2015-2016, he added.