Opinion / Blog

Oh, not tests again!

By TedM ( Updated: 2015-03-16 16:13

Even after three years in China, involved in education, I am still surprised about the Chinese obsession with tests and competitions. It seems that nothing can be done without it being made competitive or tested.

There is real value in competition, testing and in assessment, but these are only effective if used for good reasons and are appropriate.

In 1:1 sports such as boxing, fencing, singles tennis and running, competing against opponents encourages effort, concentration, determination and initiative. Likewise, competitions between groups in  team sports such as basketball and soccer can have the same effects. However, the difference lies in the need for sharing, trust and cooperation in team sports. Sometimes a school will insist on competition between teachers for the highest test results or the best “open” lesson. This is extremely damaging to the necessity for shared planning and cooperation and impacts negatively on effective teacher training. In China many people will do anything to “win” or not to be criticized, and sharing and helping others damages their own chance of “winning”. There is a clear temptation to cheat (which is ok in China so long as you don’t get caught!).

Likewise everything in China has to be tested. Unfortunately these tests generally only assess the rote learning of text book answers. Even the latest initiatives to introduce soccer to schools have immediately resulted in the issue of text books and a test of soccer skills to be included in PE tests. I am puzzled as to why a sport like soccer needs testing. Skills can be coached, and the results are clear in competitions and by simple observation. Also, not all students will be interested, or be able to succeed in every sport (unless the test only looks at rote answers in a text book!).

Once again it may come down to the need for tests to replace basic trust; a trust that teachers will do the work needed and competitions that always require a “winner”.

What are tests for?

- To assess the results of changes

- To advise forward planning

- To assess the effectiveness and results of actions

- Assess progress, knowledge and understanding

- Assess the ability to learn or do something.

- To place a student in the most appropriate environment

- To encourage

- To provide a grade or score against benchmark standards

- As practice tests for future examinations

- To determine and investigate problems and difficulties

- To provide data and information

- To inform decision making

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