Appraisal of the current school system

State of systems and processes in schools

Systems and processes are critical building blocks of institutions. Their criticalness lies in setting the minimum default delivery standards; strong systems and processes in a school will translate into a higher minimum benchmark quality of education.

Here is a brief appraisal of the state of systems and processes in schools:

  1. Schools as a system seem to be built on the fear of failure, and often it is the parents’ fear of failure, starting from the pre-primary years. Schools are good at discovering and inventing continuous ‘stream of fears’ to keep the system in leash. Sample a few: hierarchy of scholar badges, Olympiads, hierarchy of tests (weekly, half yearly, annual), inter-school competitions, annual sports, annual day(s), external benchmark exams, ‘hierarchy of prefects’, assembly presentations and so on. The system rarely asks teachers, students, parents and principals to think about anything bigger than the next assignment/activity.
  2. Do you know that schools have the most rudimentary appraisal system (for teachers)? Among the most impactful roles in the world, teaching has no appraisal system. Expectedly, there are no role descriptions and rudimentary induction processes and little in-service training.
  3. Assessment systems and processes are perhaps the most important systems in schools. However, assessment systems are ill-focused and casually tempered with assessment marks such as ‘averaged’, ‘percentiled’, ‘standard deviated’ etc. – the worst level of intellectual bankruptcy. It kills the essence of assessment – getting to know each student, the performance of students in a particular domain/chapter/test paper/question/answer, or the performance of individual teacher/department etc.
  4. All assessment systems miss one simple rider:
    1. The marks indicated for the student have no correlation with her actual learning ability and likely future achievements
    2. Any similarity between the two – the marks and the actual learning ability – is purely co-incidental (and we are as surprised as you are when that happens)
    Indeed, the current student assessment systems have come to occupy a disproportionately important role in schools. They tend to dictate every aspect of the teaching-learning processes and are perhaps a major cause of the derailment of quality in education. Assessment should be assigned its rightful place in the scheme of things to lead to better learning, productive teachers, and effective schools. Traditionally, school assessments from KG to 12 mimic terminal examinations, necessitating school processes and parental expectations to be aligned to it and distracting the system further from its core purpose of assessment for better learning.
  5. End-of-term or chapter assessments have no feedback for teachers. There is nothing for teachers and schools in the assessments – all faults lie with the students, their parents, their tutors at home, the community they live in, the kind of books they read, TV, computer games, social media, or peers!
  6. End-of-term or chapter assessment is the norm; assessment is seen as the ‘end’ of learning. However, what is the point of telling a student that he/she is rather weak in a chapter/topic when that chapter/topic will never ever be visited again in the school.
  7. 14 years of school education is the prime culprit for converting the marathon of life into an infinite serial run of 10 metres each! It is a disastrous recipe for individuals and society – life remains a marathon but schools do not prepare us for the marathon by creating an internally consistent seamless teaching and learning ‘agenda and content’ for 14 years. Worse, almost all the students would sprint all the way to only scramble to fall before the finishing line. The systems and processes at school are not integrated across 14 years.

Systems and processes in schools are ill designed for securing quality.

‘What a school thinks about its library is a measure of what it feels about education.’

— Harold Howe

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