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Getting the balance right

Karen Hanratty
Karen Hanratty (19 posts) Principal of BIS Hanoi プロフィールを見る

Tests and exams are a fact of life for students! There have always been debates around the place of testing and the benefits, if any, of this kind of measure of a student’s progress and ability. Some argue that there should be no exams, because when, after finishing formal education, is one ever required to sit an exam again? Other people feel that exams are important as a measure of attainment, provide a clear goal towards which students aim and an opportunity to celebrate success.

At BIS we use a range of different types of assessment and tests, so that teachers, students and parents understand what students are doing well and what their next steps in learning should be. In Early Years, our assessments are ongoing, based around a teacher’s observations of the children in their class, talking with the child, listening to their responses and watching how they engage in activities. In Primary, alongside teacher assessment we start to introduce some formal assessment points, where we can measure a child’s progress in specific areas and identify what gaps they have, so that teaching can be targeted in these areas. In Secondary, in preparation for external exams in Years 11 and 13, the testing becomes more formal and starts to replicate the actual exams which will be taken.  This week, Years 10 and 12 are having Progress Check Tests (PCTs) – which provide meaningful feedback for teachers and students, and also give students a feeling of the examination process. Our Year 11 and 13 students are busy with final revision lessons, before going on study leave after the Spring Break. 

When thinking about the place of tests and assessments in school, it is vital to get the balance right.  An ex-colleague of mine used to say, “You don’t make a pig fat by weighing it”, which translates in an educational sense to saying, “You don’t teach a child by testing it”. Testing doesn’t build a student’s knowledge, skills or understanding in a subject, it just provides a snap-shot of their current learning.  We need to be careful to not over-test our students; our core purpose is educating, not testing.  Assessments are important as a measure, but the most important thing is to use that snap-shot to inform further teaching, and to focus on providing students with targeted, stimulating learning experiences which will take them further. 

2021 FOBISIA Online Languages Competition

Of course, giving students an opportunity to display their knowledge and skills isn’t all about tests and exams. Our Secondary MFL students are currently taking part in a FOBISIA Online Languages Competition. Though the competition, students can engage, revise and boost their language learning by answering questions which earn point across a range of listening, reading, writing and speaking activities. Our students are competing against their fellow BIS students as well as students across all FOBISIA schools. Good luck BIS language learners!