What is ETS’ role in PARAKH?
PARAKH will be an independent organisation affiliated to the education ministry and we are helping build it. It will be looking into three major areas-large scale assessment like the National Achievement Survey, school-based assessments and thirdly capacity building. First, we will help assess where things are currently, and then we will start to develop some norms and guidelines together.
What are the challenges in assessments?
There is a lot of diversity in how education is delivered in India and assessments help teachers understand where a student is now. What is the ability to read in your language of instruction and what is the level of maths and other numeracy skills that you have. Those foundational skills are not anywhere near what they need to be for a country as large as India. With 600 million people under the age of 30, it has such an opportunity to serve not only the human capital in India for supporting growth and candidly for the world. To build foundational skills you need better assessments. We will not wait for one semester or one year, but instead will do them every week, or month, what we call in our education management industry formative assessments. We want to uplift schools and have more equity in schools.
How to tackle the menace of coaching?
It’s upon us as parents, schools, and the government to invest more in career exploration exercises and programmes. That allows students to take time to think. Parents also need to be more open to alternatives beyond the traditional areas of medicine and engineering.
Coaching is a complex thing – on one hand we all know why coaching industry exists, because parents help prepare their kids but as a society it also creates a lot of inequity because you have parents who can’t afford coaching and are at a disadvantage from a family that can, and that inequity leads to inter-generational inequity. That’s where PARAKH comes in to improve assessments with public and private schools and raise the quality of outcomes in schools which will take the pressure off families.
Your opinion on competitive inflation of board exam marks?
Grade inflation is a global problem because the intention of many of these Boards is to give a differentiated competitive advantage for their students. But reality is often the opposite as they are giving the impression that they are ready when they may not be fully ready.
The answer lies in going beyond a single number or metric, and really looking at a broad portfolio of skills. We need to have a breakdown of the skill levels of individuals and then have that normalised by some kind of moderation.
Should undergraduate admissions be based on class XII marks?
We at ETS and the industry generally are now moving to a more holistic approach where we are looking at what we call the ABCs – affective skills, behavioural skills and cognitive skills. Most tests just look at cognitive skills which are reasoning and problem solving. But behavioural skill shows how you apply that knowledge to a real-world situation, and affective skill reveals how you really show up, manage emotions and collaborate.