Review role of formative assessment under CBC

Pupils during a CBC practical lesson

Pupils during a Competency-Based Curriculum practical lesson. CBC is aimed at developing these skills and talents to suit the learners’ different career paths after secondary education. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Assessment is one of the critical cogs in the education process. It acts as a bridge between teaching and learning. An instructor employs assessment to gauge whether the learner has grasped a concept or skill or not.

Two types obtain. The first is formative—frequently employed during teaching and learning. It enables the instructor to tell whether learners are on course. The second is summative, and comes at the end of a course. It mainly serves placement purposes, inasmuch as it offers insights for review.

My concern is formative assessment and how it’s being employed under the Competency-based Curriculum (CBC). Ordinarily, this assessment is meant to provide feedback to help the instructor to guide the learner by clarifying certain positions; varying the learning activities; and simplifying the presentation of content. It’s the teacher’s tool that allows regulation of the teaching and learning process.

But under CBC, we are told that individual pupil scores arising from formative tests will be accumulated to form 60 per cent of their overall grade with the remaining 40 per cent determined by a national summative test. Really? How can a tool to aid teaching be consequently used to judge capability?

School-based scores

Already, there are questions regarding the objectivity of school-based scores. Chances of teacher tampering are real. It’s worse where parents do assignments for their children and have them graded at school. The practice is rife in private schools, where teachers, without notice, demand that pupils design a certain implement or device and present it for assessment. Often, parents either buy or make them.

Granted, it’s a reinvention of the cheating that characterised the outgoing 8-4-4 system! Worse, some of the activities don’t make much sense (consider Grade 6 pupils being told to download types of fences and print and present them as portfolio repertoire!) Further, parents who don’t ‘cooperate’ risk having their children graded lowly—and the scores would be uploaded on the Knec portal.

Give direction

The Ministry of Education must give direction regarding the role of formative assessment. Else, it risks litigation when the scores are eventually taken into account at year-end. Whereas the change in the education system was meant to improve the education process, what we are seeing is, to say the least, regressive. Something is clearly wrong at the ministry, especially the curriculum department (if at all it exists) that ought to properly advise the leadership.

Conventionally, formative assessment is employed as a means to feedback in the instructional process. It must remain so, and be viewed from an engineering perspective—where the information provided is used to inform future instructional action. There’s a need for education policymakers to, upon new evidence, take bold steps and do the right thing. Else, we risk losing it all.

It is foolhardy for one to run when headed in the wrong direction and claim to be making progress.

Mr Osabwa is a lecturer at Alupe University College, Busia. [email protected].