Concerns of a Head of School: continuous assessment means students take school more lightly

A veteran head of school told MaltaToday that Malta's system of continuous assessment, first implemented last year as a new way of keeping track of pupils’ performance in schools, could lead to students 'taking school more lightly'

Pupils still sit for exams at the end of the scholastic year, but the final grade will be made up of 40% assessment and 60% from the annual exam
Pupils still sit for exams at the end of the scholastic year, but the final grade will be made up of 40% assessment and 60% from the annual exam

Malta’s system of continuous assessment, first implemented last year as a new way of keeping track of pupils’ performance in schools, could lead to students “taking school more lightly”, a veteran head of school complained with MaltaToday.

The continuous assessment measure has done away with half-yearly examinations in secondary schools and students are now being continuously assessed throughout the scholastic year – a measure that also requires teachers to grade pupils more often.

Pupils still sit for exams at the end of the scholastic year, but the final grade will be made up of 40% assessment and 60% from the annual exam.

“Teachers are provided with assessment criteria such as the various components one has to assess in English. The various components require thinking and a lot of preparation from the teachers’ end,” the head of the government school who spoke to this newspaper said.

“What sets me thinking is the fact that since there are only exams at the end of the scholastic year, students and parents might take it more lightly. What I mean is that when there were half-yearly exams, it was a natural process to start revising from a month before.”

But she lamented that students are not being provided with enough memory work, especially since language examinations at the end of the year assess creative writing, reading comprehension and oracy – the ability to express oneself fluently – which do not require any particular study. “The only exam which requires studying and practice is the Maths exam,” she said.

The school principal added that the Learning Outcomes Framework (LOF), dubbed the backbone of Malta’s education programmes for doing away with traditional benchmarking by exam – might not lead to a big change in the way teachers conduct classes.

The LOF encompasses a set of subject learning outcomes that set out what a learner is expected to know by the end of the year. “The difference between LOFs and the syllabus is that learning outcomes are levelled, while a different syllabus is provided for each year group, that is, a list of items which need to be covered by a year level,” the school head said.

“Year 4 (children aged 8) teachers will be embarking on a new system of working with learning outcomes – they practically had to prepare everything from scratch since the components being assessed vary from the ones in previous years.”

LOFs are therefore themed for each subject. In the case of English classes, the LOF at the end of the year might ask students whether their classes have helped them to suggest some ideas of their own in the same style as an original story in a class discussion.

The school head embraced the new changes for kindergarten educators, which will be following the Emergent Curriculum, that is, allowing teachers in Kinder 1 and 2 to develop ideas developed and proposed by their students.

“In theory, this is brilliant because there is no fixed curriculum at this tender age and every kindergarten educator will be engaging students in activities that vary from those of other colleagues,” the head of school said.

“It is early days, yet the outcome of the Emergent Curriculum cannot be foreseen and it is still unclear how reports will be presented to parents at the end of the year.”

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