How well is every child learning?
By Namrta Kaushal
There is an increasing pressure on the average primary school teacher, especially with large, overcrowded classes of pupils with varying abilities and languages. Understandably it can be difficult for the teacher to flag a child's difficulties. Sometimes they can just slip through the net in the early years of primary school and their learning difficulties and abilities remain unidentified and therefore, unsupported. Hence, Pratham has recognized the need for assessing children for their better learning. An educational assessment can promote greater understanding of academic performance and achievement. Also, an educational assessment can identify the underlying issues that may be preventing a child from achieving his or her academic potential. A child who is excelling at school may require support and enrichment within the classroom. With the intention of assessing the learning level of children, Pratham Delhi Education Initiative conducted about 20 ‘Assessment Melas’ across Delhi this October.
Gathering accurate information from young children is difficult. The tools designed by the Pratham team were used to assess the exact learning levels of the child. A day prior to each mela, rallies were carried out, to make parents and children aware of the purpose, date, venue and timing. Pratham volunteers went door to door to as many possible households to spread the word. Posters were also distributed.
Around 18-20 assessment melas were conducted successfully in Delhi. The process of assessment was broadly divided into 3 major steps. Step one is registration, after which each child was issued a report card. The child then carried this report card to the test counter to get their literacy level tested. At the test desk the child was assessed with the help of three subject tools - Math, English and Hindi. These tools were valid and reliable for an age group of 4-16 years.
Every child was tested in these subjects very carefully. The report card showed the grade of learning levels of every child. For example a child might not be able to read sentences in English but could recognize letters and words. The volunteers patiently asked the child twice or thrice before marking his/her level. Letter - Word – Sentence – Paragraph – Story / Advance Story were the levels of assessment in the English tool. There were similar tools for Math and Hindi.
The last step for the child after getting the report card was to visit the kit counter along with their parent. Subject kits to aid learning, were sold at economic prices according to the level as shown in the report card. The volunteers at the counters explained the learning material and the child had the option of practicing at home or that the learning centre. Information about Pratham learning centers and admissions were also given at this counter.
Assessment of young children is important both to support the learning of each individual child and to provide data—at the district, state, and national level—for improving services and educational programs. At the level of the individual child, teaching and assessment are closely linked. Finding out, on an ongoing basis, what a child knows and can do, helps parents and teachers decide how to pose new challenges and provide help with what the child has not yet mastered.