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Culture of Testing: A case study in Tonga

Otunuku, Mo'ale and Fa'avae, David and Toumu'a, Ruth and Robyns, Richard (2017) Culture of Testing: A case study in Tonga. [Professional and Technical Reports] (Unpublished)

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This study was commissioned by UNESCO to examine the ‘culture of testing’ in the Kingdom of Tonga and carried out by the Institute of Education of The University of the South Pacific (USP). Tonga has a formal education system that is examination oriented and driven and society has traditionally placed excessive value on the results of examinations, especially high stake ones. The study examines the social and cultural factors that create a “culture of testing” and its relationship to education policies, education reform, curriculum, and/or teacher pedagogy. It will also examines how this “culture of testing” affect learners and learning outcomes. All of these will be examined in light of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 targets. The study draws attention to the fact that while the emphasis on exams results maybe justified in the eyes of parents and the public, there are other non-examined skills and knowledges that students acquire while at schools which may be of importance to them later in life. In other words, this focus purely on high exam results may also be undermining other essential aspects of learning that are often not captured in tests and examinations, at least in the way that these are traditionally conceived. The research has revealed that the Tongan parents‘ perceptions about examinations appears to be consistent with a culture dominated by high-stakes public examinations, in which high student performance in examinations is publicly applauded in society and social institutions like the church, and in which such performance brings about significant social consequences (i.e., access to scholarships to study abroad). Parents and teachers do not agree that there are too many examinations, however students do agree that there are too many examinations. However, all participants rated examinations highly in terms of their importance in maintaining a ‘good education’. Furthermore, because examinations have such powerful positive inducements, they act as a significant lever for motivating students to improve their performance. Participants believed that school administrators should consider students’ voices in making school policies about assessment and examinations. School administrators themselves raised the issue of language in examinations. Specifically, they are concerned by the fact that the language of the examination is predominantly not the students’ first language, arguing that any such test is to some degree a test of language proficiency – in this case, English as a second language. Questions raised include those relating to what percentage of students’ low scores on national assessments can or should be attributed to language proficiency? Will students improve their scores if assessed in their first language? This raises a number of important issues that require further in-depth analysis. Desk study revealed the need for the Education Management Information System (EMIS) to be empowered and strengthened to give it the capability to undertake its vital purposes. The Unit has remained vulnerable to political, management and administration changes. Urgently, the Unit needs strong leadership and good relationships with other divisions of the Ministry, education systems, and schools to enable it to perform it primary function of coordinating the collection of quality data, compilation, analysis, and reporting of educational information to all stakeholders. The Ministry of Education and Training (MET) and private school authorities in the Kingdom of Tonga place high emphasis on good exams results and this has negative implications and consequences for education as a whole. Tonga needs an education system that caters for the diverse characteristics and abilities of its student population. It needs an education system that offers students a wide variety of options and career pathways to choose from. The SDG4 commits to ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all. It is believed that the emphasis on exam results has many students missing out on opportunities they may have been capable of accessing, if the education system had been truly inclusive.

Item Type: Professional and Technical Reports
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Law and Education (FALE) > Institute of Education
Depositing User: David Fa`avae
Date Deposited: 18 Feb 2019 22:04
Last Modified: 18 Feb 2019 22:04

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