Thursday, February 09, 2012

Oh, the Humanities!

Can it be true? Is the industry really taking a step away from assembly-line QC checks that used to be done on pen-and-paper? For a society banking on acing exams as the prime achievement of our education policy, this looks like quite a bold step -- to quit the familiar and start a new assessment mode from scratch.

Guess the Bosses are serious about developing self-directedness, and collaborative learning in our students to prepare them for 'life' instead of just exams. It's exactly what our last three days of training had been all about. I am cautiously excited.

Today's surprise announcement also answers a question that's been bugging me through this week's Infocomm Tech training: with all the technology we're expected to train the kids to use, when it comes to the pen-and-paper final assessment, won't the kids be handicapped if they haven't got their networked systems to play with and work together on?

Also, there will be trust issues. Parents, institutes of higher learning and the employment market would need assurances that the graduating kids are still competitive with their peers from elsewhere. We, as trainers and assessors would want a rubric that is fair and empowering, and not demoralizing like the previous exam-based curriculum eventually became.

Believe me, it'll get worse before it gets better. I've been pretty hard on the alternative assessment we call 'Project Work' (which we also unofficially call by more colourful aliases), and I take any opportunity I can to deride the way it is being implemented. In reality, I still believe that it's a step in the right direction. But as we muddle our way through uncharted waters, we're bound to hit rough seas (and probably lose not a few men overboard) before we finally get the hang of it. Until then, it's going to be a long, harrowing ride while we pull through this transition phase.

It'll be that way for lower sec Humanities too. Why experiment with the Humanities in the lower secondary grades? Because, pragmatically speaking, they aren't high-stakes subjects. Nobody in our science/math-mad society is going to complain too much if we mess with exams there. And, who knows? An investigative, project-based approach might be the best way to make these hugely underrated subjects relevant and stimulating to a new batch of young learners.

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