Assessments Driving Change in Education

 All assessment uses for the teacher principal, administrative, policy maker should be derived out of one assessment which is derived from the child.

What kind of data are we collecting and what will be its uses. If we are just trying to understand if a child has understood something. It can be done in other forms than written test.


What data will lead to policy intervention such as focus of teacher training for example we found that in class 5 or grade 5 across the board the children had problem with the concept of place value. Could it be that the teachers were not able to teach that well? What kind of training and classroom material will help understand the concept better in future years?

There is no point in collecting lots of data around the child just to give him a grade. It not only seems pointless but is almost negative. All the effort has gone into data collection should be put to better uses. For example topic, sub topic wise, diagnosis – for every Childs self analysis and planning of next steps for each child or a better teacher preparation or remedial action. Focus of teacher training and reinforcement material for the children and policy feedback and parents participation.

When children have information at their fingertips about themselves they become better partners, when parents have information on their fingertips they become better parents, same goes for teachers and policy makers and everything goes back to one data that is collected at the child’s level.

Assessments can be a very powerful mechanism for driving change in education. For assessments to be profoundly impacting our new education has to be based on a new premise, not the old.  I think we are still in the box of the old and trying to invent as fast as possible, but the reality is that no matter how much you try, a steam engine can never take you to the new century where children are already in a spacecraft maximizing their potential.

If we change assessments, we change everything in a way. Teachers start playing to a different tune once the assessments get changed.  In particular, why do I believe that the assessments have to be based not on the old ethics of “Compete with others” but on the more powerful ethic of “compete with oneself or yourself”.

assIn particular, take the case of Roger Bannister.  Some of you might have heard of Roger Bannister.  He was a medical student in Oxford University and in 1954 he became the first man in human history to have run one mile in under four minutes.  He had been told, like many others before him, that if he tried to run a mile in under four minutes, he would die in the attempt, but he knew that he could do it.  He knew that he could compete with himself and make that mark possible. So, he was willing to die.  And this is what happened.  In 1954, when he broke the record, which was thought humanly impossible, the world stood up because it was a hair-raising experience for everyone. And when he was finally conscious after waking up from the finish line, and people asked him “How do you feel?” he said, “I must be dead” because he had been told so often that he will be dying.  We expect children to not do beyond their class levels because we say they will die in the attempt. So, they do not even try. But actually they can.  A new ethic brings with it a lot of new changes.

The old ethic, the old steam-engine approach says, begin numeracy for a kid and take it up and up and up to high-school, A-level mathematics.  Yet the class is all over the place and we cannot handle that. This is the old structure. We cannot handle it because it says that the class dynamics matter, not the child.  So, we need to convert that.

Why compete with yourself? The year Roger Bannister managed to make history, that same year, after he did it, 16 others did it worldwide. And what is also fascinating is that in the next three years, over 200 people managed to break that record. Why? Because competition with oneself is a much more powerful ethic”.  It brings about more intrinsic motivation to succeed.  People feel, I can, instead of ‘I cannot’. They are not looking sideways. All inventions, all progress has come because people have competed with themselves and not with others and I think, therefore, it is a more powerful ethic that we need to implant in our educational system for the 21st century.

Dr. Sunita Gandhi
Founder – Council For Global Education, USA
President – Global Classroom

About the Author

sgDr Gandhi has travelled to and studied education systems in some 38 countries. Her experience in education has been unique and spans a vast range, from the bottom-up grassroots level in villages to classroom practice and top-down education policy reform working with governments during her tenure with the World Bank. Dr Sunita Gandhi has a PhD in Physics from Cambridge University, UK, and a bachelors in Physics from Imperial College, London University. At Cambridge, she received three merit based scholarships: The Cambridge Commonwealth Trust Scholarship, The Overseas Student Award and Trinity College Scholarship. Dr. Sunita Gandhi comes from a family of well-known educators running the world’s largest school in India with over 47,000 students currently on roll, a Guinness World Record holder. More importantly, the school has received the UNESCO Prize for Peace Education.

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