Thursday, 18 September 2014


Objective questions are the symptom of a decline in student writing standards. Let the examiner do all the writing and students just tick and flick.

Papua New Guinea is going through a period of soul searching on the declining standards of learning in schools.

Recently a Dr Sinebare wrote a newspaper article explaining that over the last three years, the standard in the grade 12 external exam had dropped badly. There were 70% of students who were graded D and E in their results. That means that only 30% passed the exams. The rest failed.

The Department of Education is now seeking to raise the standard of education starting with elementary grades.

Outcome Based Education is on its way out and Standards Based Education is the new approach. That is good in some ways. The Department tells of standards required but gives the teachers limited understanding of how to achieve that. Sadly teachers will be required to set up their own resources.

Too much education in Papua New Guinea is focussed on summarizing and memorizing what the teacher has placed on the blackboard.

Lessons have long since degenerated into the teacher writing the lesson on the board and students copying into their work books that have been neatly ruled up. Testing comes with students required to answer questions from their workbook summary.

There is a problem in this country in that teachers in the daily classroom and external exams place too much focus on objective questions. I have seen so many objective questions in this country that have no correct answer or three correct answers.

On a recent student quiz show on Kundu TV, we saw the question as follows:

Exercise strengthens which body system? a. immune system b. blood system  c. immune system or d. pulmonary system.

The student answered that it was b the blood system. Sorry he was wrong. It was the c. immune system. This question really had 4 correct answers. I have read many exam papers that have wrong responses in the objective questions. And clever students fail.

I teach English to grades 10 and 12. I saw a Grade 10 test paper recently that I would have failed. I would have got many of the objective questions wrong. It was the question designer who got the questions wrong. Let students write a little note to the examiner. FAIL.

There is a poor approach to test design. There should be a bank of valid objective test questions.

A group of subject teachers should come to the Measurement Support Unit and sit for exams in the subjects they teach. If a significant number fail certain objective questions, these should be reassessed and rejected if not valid.

We have the problem that the universities are becoming unable to accept the larger body of grade 12 students. Norman Sike speaking on the EM TV House and Home show stated that within the decade, 93 % of students will not be able to find a place at university.

Is that why Dr Sinebare says that there has been a drastic drop in levels of achievement in the grade 12 external exam? Are the exams being made too difficult to weed the students out for places in university? Are the goal posts being moved further down the field?

There is a problem in schools with Mastery Learning of subject skills and knowledge. Students may achieve high pass rates for internal assessment. But the level of difficulty in the external exam may be out of this world. This is cruel assassination of student hopes.

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