All posts by Assiya

What admission requirements are superior for Univesities: knowledge or scores?

testing

It is common for parents to start looking for good schools when a child is almost six years old and one of the most important criteria for them is the school’s rating on the Unified National Test.  Standardized test provides the indication of how students perform in school, however it doesn’t tell the whole story. The test scores doesn’t show the progress of the students, doesn’t provide information whether the learning takes place and doesn’t specify the richness of the curriculum. However, the majority of our population strongly believes and sends their children to the schools with high scores on UNT.

The initial goal of UNT was to eliminate corruption, though the launching of this system did not solve the problem. Parents, principals and teachers found different ways to help their students to receive high results. High income family bribed the officials who were responsible for safeguarding the national test. When my niece graduated the school in 2006 her classmate who was a lower achiever received the highest result in the country. This happened because parents cared too much about their child’s future, by purchasing answers for the test. This unfair way of assessment provides inequality while entering the university which controversy to the initial goal of the UNT.  Moreover, a lot of students suffer morally, some graduates loss self-esteem, faith and motivation or even commit a suicide.

Principals and teachers are engaged in various kinds of cheating to raise their status. This happens due to a huge pressure educational stakeholders are facing to ensure that test scores consistently are growing. From my practical experience as a teacher I can state that this inadequate way of cheating is completely true and there is no alternative way to resolve. Administration is conscious about dishonest system which helps to receive intended outcomes; therefore the final numbers ministries provide us are not reliable. My view can be supported by the outcome of external assessment PISA, where Kazakhstani students received the lowest scores almost in every subject. Taking into consideration the PISA’s result it can be assumed that the assessment reform didn’t achieve its initial goals to minimize the corruption. However, the idea of including those for whom Kazakh or Russian is not their native language is the first step towards the increasing the importance of a state language.

Taking into account teaching experience and as a parent there are some alternative ways of changing the system can be suggested. For example, to include a creativity subject in the curriculum as an obligatory subject beginning from grade one to six  which will increase the ability of students  to think out of box. Of course creativeness cannot be measured by simple test; however this will help students to raise their cognitive skills and better oriented in the labor market. It could be suggested to abolish the standardized test further and instead to have oral examinations which will be conducted in the fifth, ninth and eleventh grades and include passing of Kazakh language every year for each school. Usually teachers’ experience, voices are not considered while implementing the reform, therefore it is mandatory that teachers together with policy makers should take part in creating the school leaving exams. The questions should be open-ended to elicit and reveal the real knowledge of the students. Because no points are given to students who knows the algorithm of solving the task but who makes an error in calculation at the end. The passing exams on each subject should also be considered, because as per my understanding every subject is valuable.

Assessment system showed that testing system lacks reliability, validity, fitness to purpose and moreover it has problems of misconduct, limits the study of certain subject and fails to promote higher cognitive skills. That’s why nowadays educational stakeholders are discussing about the modification of national testing which considered to be held three times after the primary, secondary and specialized schools.

Giftedness and schooling

a gifted boy

Story of Jonatan has appeared in my way while searching an interesting topic to share with you on blog.  The child Jonatan who had extraordinary abilities started to speak at nine months, by two and half he was reading at the second-grade level and speaking with an eight-year-olds vocabulary. At age seven, he had an intense intellectual curiosity and a passion for geography (Nieves, 1996). When Jonathan was five years old, his parents tried to get him admitted into the gifted and talented program in their local school. However, Jonathan refused to complete the necessary IQ test because he was upset that he was asked to do easy things.  Later, when Jonatan was accepted to the ordinary school, it was very hard for school to meet the needs of this exceptional child who was ahead of his age-mates in the abilities and interests. This story provides the different overview on education for gifted children. Giftedness is a combination of two factors: genetically heritage from parents and proper schooling.

As you may know, gifted children are different from their peers and mainly are socially isolated and bored being in the classrooms. Gifted children face a variety of problems in ordinary classrooms. They often are disliked as being different and weird and are labeled as nerds and geeks (Silverman, 1993).  In addition, they face the problem of boredom due to lack of an appropriate level of challenge (Csikszentmihalyi, Rathunde, & Whalen, 1993). Teachers often make little accommodation to the needs of these children, and many teachers have little or no special training in how to teach such exceptional children (Westberg, Archambault, Dobyns, & Salvin, 1993). Many famous adults report that schools had a negative impact and experience on them, because they were either bored or knew more than a teacher (Bloom, 1985). The lack of appropriate instruction for high-ability students is especially problematic for economically disadvantaged children whose families do not have the resources for extracurricular lessons, concerts, museum visits, and so forth. But what would parents do if they find out the signs of giftedness in their child? Firstly parents should keep in mind that while most children are able to form simple sentences and understand complex language by the age of two, gifted children often reaches these indicators earlier. If parents also notice that child learns rapidly, easily, has exceptionally large vocabulary for his age, has a strong memory and  perform mastering skills in every activity the child is engages or displays a great curiosity about objects, situations, or events and asks provocative questions  — then you may consider that your child has exceptionally high intelligence. But having all these characteristics do not guarantee of possessing gifted ability. A special test determining the giftedness should be conducted by the professionals.

That’s’ a pity that despite having giftedness many children around the world have a little opportunity to escalate their abilities further. Returning back to the Jonatan’s case, I would like to know your opinion what would you do if you were involved as parent, school official or teacher?

References

Bloom, B. S. (1985). Developing talent in young people.

Csikszentmihalyi, M., Rathunde, K., & Whalen, S. (1997). Talented teenagers: The roots of success and failure. Cambridge University Press.

Silverman, L. K. Gifted & Talented Office 8c.

Westberg, K. L., Archambault, F. X., Dobyns, S. M., & Salvin, T. J. (1993). The classroom practices observation study. Journal for the Education of the Gifted16(2), 120-146.

Winner, E. (1997). Exceptionally high intelligence and schooling. American Psychologist52(10), 1070.

Creativity and Education

Creativity just recently appeared in some of our new schools as a subject. There are a few schools in Astana where creativity is taught as a compulsory subject from the first grade. It is interesting to know why some schools decide to include this subject in the curriculum as a main subject whereas mainstream schools are far beyond of understanding and adding creativity as a subject

Growing interest in creativity began in the late 90’s all over the world. In the work of Robina Shaheen (2010), the author implies the new trend was accompanied by criticizing the current system of education for “killing” creativity. It is very obvious that creativity as a subject is the core element in preparing the next generation and are definitely contribution in teaching curriculum. Developing every individual’s creative potential will be one of the crucial factors for leading economies further. There is an overall shift in educational policy in various countries, Kazakhstan is not an exception. However, I keep asking myself why necessity to include creativity in teaching had occurred only in 90’s? Perhaps, people stopped thinking creatively or there are an educational competition among countries or is it a necessity of life?

Creativity is seen more than a subject in developed countries; it is understood as key traits for success.  According to author Cathy N. Davison, “65% of today’s preschoolers will grow up to work in jobs or pursue careers that don’t yet exist.” It means that next generation needs to be prepared to tackle not only the known, but also the unknown problems our world will face. Therefore, we must be forward thinking about how we train and inspire our upcoming generation. It is a very hard task isn’t it? I am pretty sure that in Kazakhstan the opponents of including creativity in the curriculum will be more than advocates. They believe that creativity plays a minor role and there is no connection between creativity, innovation and economy. However, I consider quite the opposite opinion. Let’s take the last PISA results, Kazakhstan’s schoolchildren were far behind of top or middle level of achievement. Data from TIMSS and PISA suggest that the Kazakhstan’s secondary school system is quite effective at imparting theoretical knowledge and ensuring that students remember, recognize and retrieve information. It is relatively weak at enabling students to acquire and practice higher-order thinking skills, such as applying and reasoning in maths, or reflecting on and evaluating texts when reading. It is interesting to note that higher achievers from PISA’s outcome are handling the creativity lessons as a key subject to success. This may explain the reason why nowadays our educational staff is ready to apply and include creativity in the curriculum.

Unfortunately, traditional education gives little room for students to develop their creativity and think out of box, however only including creativity in the curriculum will affect much on achievement.