Odd to find an article in the Turkish Times attacking the examination system. This article says that contrary to conventional wisdom, standardized achievement tests do not really measure what is learned by students through inspired instruction in class.
One can take issue straightaway and say it has never been conventional wisdom that exams measure what students have learned from ‘inspired instruction’ in class.
Leave out the ‘inspired instruction’, which is so rare as to be almost non-existant. and the conventional wisdom has always been that examinations are a filter system — a fairly imperfect filter system but the best one we have.
In China, it’s the National Higher Education Entrance Examination. In Turkey, it’s the Student Selection Examination. But regardless of the varied nomenclature, the purpose of all the tests is to separate students out so that they can be ranked by university admissions officers.
In that the article seem to have it aright.
Then it says: ‘Despite conventional wisdom, these standardized achievement tests do not largely measure what is learned in class through inspired instruction. That’s why they unavoidably result in frustration and anger on the part of students and their families.’
This is very iffy as an argument.
It then comes up with the ingenious argument: If test makers loaded up their standardized tests with items measuring only the most important material emphasized in class through effective instruction by teachers, scores would likely be bunched together. It would be a disaster since it would not allow students to be ranked.
To avoid this potential calamity, test makers deliberately build into the tests a disproportionate number of items with the power to engineer score spread among students.
Experience has shown time and again that the best way to achieve this indispensable goal is to create items that assess what students bring to class in the form of their socioeconomic backgrounds.
All of which is a nonsense unless this is a unique Turkish experience. What finally destroys the argument in that he then takes Finland as an ideal example of how it should be done.
‘It is one of the few nations around the globe that does not require an entrance exam for university admission. Instead, it uses a system of professional counseling to help students make realistic choices about their future plans.
It really is so much nonsense.
In tertiary education in Finland, two, mostly separate and non-interoperating sectors are found: the profession-oriented higher vocational schools and the research-oriented universities. There are 20 universities and 30 polytechnics in the country. Finnish universities have long wanted more autonomy from political inference and the relatively low budgets available.
Examinations are, accepted, far from perfect, but the Finnish system as described, simply would not work in a country with a sizable student population.
Source: Turkish Daily Times
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