Holistic assessment of children’s progress


Are exams the best way to help children develop?

This is a big question. I find that exams based assessment of a child’s development results in a narrow focus and thus, inadequately prepares the child for the challenges they will face many years later in life.

Exams based assessment – whilst are objective – only emphasises (i) academic knowledge; (ii) enforces rote learning; (iii) creates behaviours of studying (self learning) only for the exams.

The above 3 emphasis are becoming increasingly inadequate these days.

For one, academic knowledge is no longer sufficient. What is important is that children start to explore learning outside of what is covered in text books. The world today is moving so quickly that knowledge nowadays is everywhere.

Secondly, rote learning does not help children develop the skills to learn on their own, or to learn through discovery and experimentation. Rote learning emphasises that the answer is pre-determined.

Thirdly, learning should be a constant habit – and not something only needed for the purpose of passing exams. This constant learning habit is highly prized when the individual progresses through life when things are constantly changing requiring a constant unlearning and relearning.

So what is the alternative to measuring a child’s development?

In the first place, we need to ask why we are measuring a child’s knowledge etc? The goal of measuring a child’s progress is to identify areas the child is strong at and areas the child can be further developed.

Assessment of children’s progress should not be seen as a means to “rate” or “grade” them. It is more important to develop children than to grade them.

Once we have properly adopted this mindset, then we can move forward with the alternative assessment. But before we go into that, we need to also understand what are the qualities on which we wish to develop our children?

Some initial thoughts on the qualities we seek in children, and later as adults:

  • academic (of course)
  • attitudes & behaviours
  • values & goals
  • leadership
  • communication, collaboration, interaction
  • physical health – sports, outdoor activities
  • empathy – emotional & spiritual quotient
  • intellectual capacity – thinking, critique
  • action & discipline
  • creativity, innovation & art

Of course, the above list may not be entirely appropriate and may even miss out other qualities. But what is important, it needs to encapsulate the many qualities we seek as people as they grow older and attempt to make the world better.

The even bigger question now is how do we measure the child’s progress in the above qualities.

Remember, the measures are meant to identify strengths and development areas. Not to rate or grade.

There are already many psychometric & other tools to measure these qualities. We only need to use them on a more regular basis through the child’s progress through school to understand more about their development.

These tools can be utilised by both teacher and parents alike in order to gain a more balanced view of the child’s development.

Avoid gaming the system

Since, this assessment is not for purpose of rating or grading the child – it will mitigate the effects of “gaming the system”. In order to enhance the credibility of the assessment tools, we can build in self-regulating mechanisms to prevent a deliberate high or low score.

What is most important is that the child makes as much progress in their development: a high score on an assessment may mean that the child need not undergo specific tasks to develop further. A constant high score means that the child has a low record number of development / improvement exercises – which could look less impressive as compared to a child who is consistently improving.

Conversely, a deliberately low scoring may mean that the child will have to undergo a rigourous number of development / improvement exercises. Which could be both taxing on the child and the tutor.

I know this system is not perfect, but it is a starting point in building a self-regulating mechanism to prevent the child, the tutor and the parents from gaming the system.

To add further mitigation – external parties may be called into assess the child further using these tools (or a variation of the tools). The tools need not require a constant intimacy with the child, but can be assessed on the spot like many psychometric tests.

Other forms of assessment can be done in a similar manner of how role-playing games (“RPG”) players acquire experience points (“XP”) to upgrade their RPG characters. These can be related to the child completing certain academic and non-academic tasks. Points, badges and recognition can be given to demonstration of certain activities, behaviours etc – such as teamwork, leadership etc.

To achieve the above, technology can be used to document, record, and provide an updated scoring system as the child progresses. Now with mobile technology, these form of scoring can be done on the move and at the right moment the tasks have been completed by the child.

Training the tutors & developing the infrastructure

There will naturally be major changes to the tutors and infrastructure for this to happen. Therefore this will not happen overnight. Investment will be needed, incentives can be provided to the private sector to participate in driving the change by providing some of their resources – financial as well as human capital.

The tools are perhaps the items of least concern as many of these are already available.

Training can be quite minimal, as many of the tools come with its own diagnosis. However, should training be required – there are a large number of organisations that have employees trained in these tools. They can be roped in.

Implementation and moving forward

This post was not meant to be an answer, nor would it be correct. The goal is to initiate a discussion around this important topic. After all, education is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) economic multiplier.

The key thing for all of us is to start looking at our education systems and ask ourselves the question whether it is helping us develop more leaders, thinkers, doers and creators for the fast changing 21st century connected and borderless world?

Start with the qualities of people we want in our economy now and many years ahead – and then work backwards to design an education system that meets those needs.

education 2.0: using social media technology to build collaborative education communities

what the education system in malaysia needs today is more empowerment.


…teachers with the ability to develop and share coursewares, ideas and materials.

…parents to review their children’s progress, compare and participate in the overall development of children’s education

…students to be able to select the best form of learning and share ideas across a wide community

…policy makers with the ability to engage with the education stakeholders

what this needs is a simple solution to connect all these needs together and with a means to organise, rank and prioritise ideas by the community itself – and a way to link / connect all the various natural communities in a wider scale.

any thoughts on how to realise this?

Pivotal role in raising children

source site – Pivotal role

RAISING children is a paradoxical task. It starts out really hard for parents who want to do a good job of caring for their children. You think that all the hard work will pay off as the child gets older, but things do not always stay the same.

Parents have to be consistent when dealing with children, yet they have to keep up with the changes as their children grow and develop.

One father said this during a parenting seminar: “I used to have many parenting theories before I became a parent. Now that I am a father of three, I have no theories left.” Parenting is all about learning and experiencing. It requires work, time and loads of patience.

Language is the key to good communication between parents and children. It is not a Western thing to talk to our children. Using respectful language with children transcends all cultures. Children learn from the way we communicate with them.

Shouting or yelling at your children will make matters worse. They will open up to you when they feel secure, loved and respected. Threats will only confuse them and make them fearful to share their thoughts.

Most parents want their children to listen to what they say. They focus so much on seeking cooperation from their children that they overlook the importance of developing the child’s character. It is better for children to cooperate because it is the right thing to do, not because their parents told them so.

Parents forget that their children tend to mimic them in their behaviour rather than internalise their words. You want your child to tell the truth at all times, yet there are occasions when he hears you telling a white lie over the phone.

Children do make lots of mistakes; so do their parents. They often hear their parents say: “It is a harsh and difficult world out there. I will teach you now so that you will not make the same mistakes.”

Many teenagers often feel misunderstood by their parents. To them, the real world is the present, not the one in the future. They need their parents to support them as they go through the challenges of teenage years. Help your children feel empowered and relate to their struggles. Let them know you are there for them in their journey through life.

Children learn best when they have enough time to explore and develop one skill at a time. Rushing children from one programme to another, can lead to early burnout. Children require guidance, discipline and nurturing from their parents, not from others. You cannot pay someone else to do what you can do for your child. A parent’s love outweighs the best programmes in the world.

Make time for your children. Enjoy being with them, doing very little or a lot. All that matters is that you are there for your child and he is there for you.

Parents who try to influence their children’s ambition, may be in for disappointment. They do everything for their children but their children blame them for many things that happen in their lives.

Children who have the freedom to choose, show more passion for their work.

Start right by helping them to do things for themselves. Help them to make the right choice, instead of making choices for them.

We have to change gears as children develop and grow. What used to work with your child may no longer be effective as he grows older.

Every child reacts differently to rules and consequences. Children want to be treated as individuals, not carbon copies of their siblings, so avoid comparing them with others.

Is education killing creativity?

source site – Presentation Zen: Is education killing creativity?

British reporter Riz Khan put together a nice 20 minute interview last week with Sir Ken Robinson, our favorite creativity and education expert (and famous TED presenter). Even if you’ve seen Sir Ken’s 2006 TED presentation, you’ll find this interview an entertaining and thought-provoking refresher. Rizwan Khan is a veteran of the BBC and CNN; he currently hosts the Riz Khan Show on Al Jazeera English.

i’ve always believed that creativity is a key ingredient to human advancements. i would also argue that mathematics and science has more in common with art – especially when exploring the unknown. check out the video.

Learning: the need to relentlessly acquire knowledge

i had a long talk with my kids today.

much of this was with the intent of creating an understanding why the relentless acquisition of knowledge is so important. ie learning & studying. i found that constant berating of the kids to study hard was not working well. time to change plans.

after thinking a bit on the subject, it all comes back to creating leadership behaviours in people. studying hard is not a natural behaviour that kids of the playstation generation would do in their default mode.

i needed to create a purpose for them. kids are leaders in the making. but they need a vision.

the most important is to constantly talk about their dreams, ambitions, desires etc. they could relate to this a bit better than the need to study. in some cases, i needed to work a bit more on the subject as some of the dreams needed to be clearer, and strengthened in order to be a compelling reason to acquire knowledge & experience.

i would often use a lot of probing “why” questions to understand what and why they have these dreams, ambitions and aspirations. but this is where it gets difficult, because not many people understand “why” they do things.

you’d be surprised that this lack of understanding “why” also exists in adults well into their working careers. so it is not just kids.

i look to society as a whole to find my answers why people in general do not understand the “what & why” questions. i conclude that we are not trained that way.

look all around us:

  • we are always told what to do, and what not to do ~ we are seldom asked what we want to do, and why – not a lot of thinking & soul searching required here
  • we are always told that many things are impossible
  • we are always told not to dream but we should focus on today ~ short term vs long term thinking
  • we do not have tolerance for mistakes, whereas i believe that learning from mistakes is one of life’s most valuable lessons – this lack of tolerance also inhibits creativity, risk taking and innovation

although very simplistic, but these are very key environmental factors influencing the way we are. these restrictive environmental factors are even more apparent in our country – as compared to (say) some developed countries.

so i tell my children that they have to develop their own thinking. my job? is to provide them with the correct environment.