It feels like I’ve walked a full circle. That circle has taken almost eight months to complete. I started off wanting to explore the possibility of redesigning the way student performance is represented. When I began my research, I had to take a step back to understand what schools were actually evaluating and on what basis. This further required the understanding of the pressures and responsibilities of the teachers who teach, guide and assess students; the parents who are ever anxious and mostly perplexed as to their child’s learning progress; the school managements trying to grasp new systems while dealing with existing issues of infrastructure, teacher quality, and resources; and finally the students for whom the report card is perhaps one of the scariest artefacts of their childhood, and marks are numbers that have a direct impact on their relationship with their peers and with their parents at home.
The research brought to light few key problem areas that need to be tackled in the realm of student assessment, which became intervention opportunities. These needed to be analyzed and viewed objectively to identify what is possible to achieve within the scope of this project as an academic Graphic Design exercise.
Problem 1. Evaluation methods have changed with the introduction of CCE, but that has not reflected in the student’s learning methods and teacher’s teaching methods. A change in teacher’s teaching methods can be brought about only through a shift in training methods, curriculum and orientation. The workshops that CBSE conducts and the supporting material as of now are not adequate enough to practically facilitate teachers to be able to change their methods of teaching.
Possible Intervention. Redesign teacher training material in collaboration with training institutes/B.Ed colleges to bring about a shift in teaching methods.
+ Will cause shift in mindset from the root, and since the teachers have major impact on student learning, even a small positive change in this direction will go a long way in how classes are conducted, how performance is monitored and how they are guided.
– Would require re-thinking of the curriculum itself, as well as familiarization of existing teachers with the new system to be able to translate it into training material of practical use for new teachers. This is well beyond the scope of the project.
Problem 2. CCE is largely misunderstood by schools, teachers, parents and students. There are many misconceptions and unclear concepts that need to be demystified. Schools have not understood the system properly, so the implementation is faulty which causes undue stress and anxiety in the stakeholders. Efforts need to be made to communicate the new process and its impact to parents, in order to create the desired change in outlook towards education.
Possible Intervention. De-Mystify CCE for Parents.
+ This would be an attempt to bring about a perceptional change in the parents’ mind about student performance. Parents would understand how their children are being taught in schools, and would hopefully be able to streamline their efforts at home in the same direction. Misconceptions would be cleared and a solid understanding would facilitate the child’s progress.
Possible Intervention. Redesign the Report Card.
+ Since the report card is the only document that communicates student performance from the school to parents, it serves an extremely sensitive purpose of guiding the way parents look at performance. Right now, it is mainly a question of how well the child did with respect to the others students in class. This mindset needs to be changed to make assessment a diagnostic process rather than one that merely documents one’s activities through an academic year.
+ The Report Card could also serve the purpose of making parents aware of the new system by simply changing the way they are made to look at the information that is represented.
The way performance is represented will affect how performance is perceived.
– Report cards are usually forgotten after a child has moved on from one class to another. Students are scared to show parents their report cards. These are actually design opportunities, rather than negatives.
Problem 3. CCE is posing as a bigger burden than the earlier system. Due to its continuos and comprehensive nature, CCE is proving to be a huge burden on students, teachers and parents, contrary to what its objective is–to reduce stress and facilitate holistic learning. Parents have the added pressure of making sure their children’s projects are done well, on a regular basis. Teachers not only have to take classes but now also monitor the entire class’ progress continuously, and for each child individually which makes it extremely stressful for them.
Possible Intervention. Design a tool for teachers to be able to log their student observations and monitor performance continuously over a period of time.
+ Would lessen the fatigue of teachers, and provide them with a tool that helps them log observations from time to time, and go back to them while filling the report card or talking to the parents. It would reduce the burden of having to maintain many registers and make their job slightly easier.
– There are huge differences in the resources and tools available to teachers depending on the school and area. Modernized schools in urban areas already use online portals to log data and communicate with parents. Schools in low-key, and rural areas on the other hand do not have any resources at all. Intervention might not be scalable.
Problem 4. Low motivation of teachers. In India, the social status of school teachers is not very high and neither are their salaries. Teaching, as a profession is not attractive to most people and is often seen as something that one could opt for if nothing else works out. If the education system has to improve, good quality teachers are of utmost importance. Their working conditions, workloads, salary structure and social status also has to be looked after carefully.
Possible Intervention. Policy advocacy to the government to increase salaries of government teachers and incentivize more well-qualified and passionate people to take up the teaching profession.
+ No amount of technology and learning aids can affect student’s learning like a good teacher would. If good teachers are brought into the system, all the other issues would take care of themselves.
+ If teachers are well motivated, it would directly have a positive impact on student learning.
– We do not have enough credibility to advocate these issues, since we’re outsiders of the system, standing at the periphery. It could have been possible if this was being done for (or to help) a group of credible teachers and educationists. The complexities of the system need much more in-depth understanding.