Parents still scratching their heads over removal of mid-year exams

Continuous assessment sounds like a good idea, but parents want teachers to exercise uniformity in
their marking

A system of continuous assessment will replace mid-year exams inside state schools, which will see pupils graded on all the work they do throughout the year.

In the past weeks, parents – and their children – won some relief after completing their last session of mid-year exams.

The change is part of a sectoral agreement set to come into effect later in the year for students in the fourth, fifth and sixth primary years, as well as form 1 and 2. For older students, the mid-year exams are to be phased out gradually.

“The idea is that instead of students being graded on just exams, they would work all throughout the year. In this way, we are giving teaching more value,” the education ministry’s permanent secretary Frank Fabri said.

“While before children did homework just for the sake of finishing it, they would now work harder as it would affect their final grade,” Fabri added.

Fabri believes this mode of assessment can be more easily adapted to the needs of specific classrooms and individual students. At the end of the term, a report would show the children’s abilities and strengths, giving more value to their work throughout the year. This would mean that teachers would gain a better idea of children’s understanding and abilities.

The weight of the continuous assessment is however still being discussed: Fabri said that marks obtained in years 4 and 5 would also contribute to the final grade at year 6. Surely enough, it’s no black-and-white marking system.

But what do parents think? Glorianne Borg Axisa, the president of the Maltese association of state school students (MAPSSS), said the impact of such a change can only be fully understood after all details were revealed.

“While some parents believed that the change is a positive step forward, others are a bit more sceptical about the reform… the situation is not as straightforward, and the impact of the change will only be fully understood once all factors are known.”

Borg Axisa says there are still question marks on how the assessment will be exactly implemented, and whether there is a guarantee that the assessment is the same across all state schools.

“It is a complex system which will determine the livelihood of a new generation of children. The important thing is that educators, parents, and students are all well-informed about the changes that will take place, the validation progress and moderation. At the end of the day, the change also requires changing people’s mentalities and that means that everyone would be part of the process.”

Frank Fabri said teachers will be given training to better understand the different ways of assessment and on how to guide their class through the process.

“In this way, while teachers would have the same subjects and syllabi, they would be able to adapt the topics depending on their students’ needs.”

Fabri also said parents will be given information sheets explaining the new assessment.

Uniformity of assessment will indeed be one of the new challenges for educators. Borg Axisa thinks that the process will need clear supervision.

“What type of moderation will be in place to make sure that the children are assessed fairly?” she said, pointing out the possibility of discrepancy between one teacher and another.

But Fabri is confident that the “same training and guidelines” for all teachers will properly guide children’s assessments. Added to that is a plan for a national homework policy, that lays down a clear framework of homework throughout each school.

“We are moving to a situation where before, teachers would create their own exam papers, so there still was inconsistency between one paper and another. The difference is that now we are focusing on deep learning instead of focusing on just on a single exam at the end of the term,” Fabri said.

More in National

Get access to the real stories first with the digital edition