BANGALORE: The relevance of the current mode of assessment for pre-school students is a question that haunts parents and educationists. Presently, a four-year old is expected to walk into an unfamiliar world and interact with strangers, a proposition that even adults find daunting. Though the trend is shifted in the last few years with even the government considering it as an area that needs rethinking and reform, very often detractors ask: “How else can we filter out and admit students from so many applicants? What is the alternative form of assessment? In order to answer this, we need to look at how four-year-olds perceive and understand the environment around them and then design alternative forms of assessment.
It is essential to create an environment where the child feels safe while conducting an assessment. In order to achieve this, we need to keep in mind the design of the room. One of the first questions my little daughter asked as part of her admission procedure was: “Mama, will there be small mats that I can sit on and work?” A thought that had never crossed my mind! But on hearing it, I was able to make the connection immediately. During her Montessori learning environment, they had small mats that they treasured and were responsible for.
An area to assess might be communication skills: The assessment procedure should involve listening to conversations among children or with adults. The focus of conversation should be associated with the children’s familiar zone of understanding — like home, family, nature, previous or current school. This will give an idea of their listening skills, ability to speak with clarity, and their interpretation of simple questions. Another area to assess would be their motor skills associated with activities involving physical tasks:
Most children would have worked with puzzles and blocks of various sizes and shapes. It will also give the teachers a wonderful opportunity to asses their levels of curiosity, development of motor skills, problem solving skills and ability to follow and interpret simple instructions. These are suitable and familiar stimuli that are close to the children’s heart and they would produce spontaneous responses that would act as indicators to aid assessment. If schools can afford it, they can minimise ‘human unfamiliarity’ impact on the children’s performance, thereby gaining an insight into their true potential. This can be done by using cameras to record the children’s performance while they are with their parents, who are given a list of tasks or questions.
These measures will ensure less stress levels, place the child in a comfort zone area and obtain an assessment that is more reliable and valid.