Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Education, Testing, Memories

I came across Testing the Chinese Way from several sources. It is hard to avoid personal memories. I went to a public school in the US and my recollections are of weekly tests. I did not like schools (an understatement) but it was not because of tests.

I left the US at the age of 25 but have continued to have a fondness for their educational system - or what existed 35 years ago.

I suffered from self-inflicted tortures in school. I did not need tests to tell me that I was bloody awful in gym. I recall once I actually caught a flier and my team and the batter were amazed! (No team picked me. I was inflicted on one of the teams.) My mind wandered so much that I could never focus long enough to concentrate on where the ball went! If that was meant to build team spirit, it miserably failed me and not because of tests.

Frequent tests were like deadlines - I knew I had understood. But to make sure that I did well in tests, I was able to revise and review. Repetition is a must for absorbing knowledge so that it becomes a part of us and we do not need to memorize it.

Problem from my perspective is not testing but what we test. I probably started to appreciate psychology and philosophy after a test. In a psychology class, we were given an aptitude test. It did not surprise me that my interests matched those who did well in physics, chemistry and maths. It also came as no surprise that my interests did not match policemen or military personnel. But what did surprise me were two peaks for psychology and philosophy! It surprised me that I did not have to like biology to enjoy and appreciate psychology.

I am more inclined to favour good tests (or if one is allergic to the word, challenges). In fact, I would be inclined to believe that good challenges can be a very plausible substitute for good teachers. That is one of the reasons I like the OLPC project.

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