In our second class, we watched an interesting TED talk and debated about whether we should keep standard tests and what are the best ways to evaluate learning process and the qualification of students for college or graduate programs. It was a good discussion, even though I agree with many of the opinions about why we should remove standard test, I still think there are many reasons that we should keep them.
First of all, we need to think about the specific field of study, for instance, for field like math, biology, chemistry or physics, I do think that standard test is a still good way to show whether students have gained the skills and knowledge, especially for elementary or foundational education. However, it might not be a good way to evaluate students’ learning in arts or literatures by standard tests. So we cannot simply say that standard tests are all not good educational methods, as they can serve as a good tool to help students learn and memorize knowledge and practice basic skills, like mind calculation in math. Personally, I have good memories and experiences about the standard tests that I took along my education path.
Second, to some extent, from the social perspective, standard test maintains some equality in the society. As I studied social work for my master’s program, I always think about the social equality issue in our lives. As getting higher education is still a privilege for certain percent of people in many societies, not everyone has the chance to go to college. Standard tests like SAT, GRE in the U.S. and the national standard college entrance test in China play an important role in college admission process. Currently, many people both in the U.S. and China are complaining that we focus too much on the scores of the tests and we should change the admission process by adding other evaluation tools or methods. I agree that we should not evaluate students’ qualifications for college or graduate programs merely based on their test scores, but we should also be cautious about the factors that could potentially lead to social inequality, when we think about revising the admission process or get rid of standard tests. For instance, in China, all of the best universities are public schools currently, and the students from lower social economic status (SES) background could still be able to and have the opportunity to take the national standard college entrance test and go to the best universities in China. If the standard test is cancelled and replaced by other means of evaluation, like cumulative evaluations through out high school years, or add some interviews to the admission process, many those students will be put into a disadvantaged situation only because of their lower SES background, which is a very complicated issue. It’s might be the same in other societies, as we cannot eliminate potential inequalities due to human weaknesses, money, power, family relationships, etc.
I have always been a little conservative and cautious when thinking about education process, so my thoughts and opinions could seem very “old” and traditional. I expect that many people might be disagree with me, so thank you for your understanding and discussions are welcomed.