Education Has Always Been Considered A Crucial Factor Education Essay

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Education has always been considered a crucial factor, reflecting directly on the civilization of nations. Education has changed thoroughly in the last decades from this induced, forced idea to become a lifestyle and a need of every family. It started with the start of life and changed according to the mankind needs. In the present educators and parents are trying hardly to design the educational needs in order to keep children prepared to the real life.

Situation

After several Inspection visits to x-School by the KHDA (knowledge &Human Development Authority), it was obvious that there is a problem in the assessment policy of that school. The schools' system depended on term tests that should be done once per term and these tests had a great effect on students' marks. So the problem relies in assessing students' knowledge only in the first place, which makes education in that school entirely theoretical. On the second hand the students were assessed for a huge number of topics taken in a long time interval. Moreover, assessments had mostly direct application questions or memorizing and not skill based assessments. And also according to the KHDA report the assessment where not differentiating between the different student levels and respecting their needs. After identifying these problems with the current assessment system used, the school administration decided to cancel the term tests of each term for several subjects, and as a remedy it was decided that the students' evaluation should be more based on the ongoing assessment of the student's daily learning behavior.

Why the tests?

According to the administration's opinion, the test is the least affective way to measure the students' progress and understanding of the subjects because:

Too many students fear tests, this could affect their performance in that test.

Tests require days of studying, so it was preferred that students take advantage of these days to acquire new skills rather than doing tests

Tests do not reflect the real student's evaluation as too many drop downs are observed in some students' marks.

Who is involved in the change?

The change was decided by the administration without referring to head of departments or teachers. As a teacher and head of computer department, I was not consulted before that decision. The teachers involved in the implementation process were not aware of the new policy and not prepared to apply the new policy. The period of time between deciding what policy to choose and implementation methods is considered short to prepare teachers, parents, adjust curriculums and set time schedules for each subject. The teachers were informed about the new policy by a general meeting and no further training was done to prepare teachers or at least tell them how to apply the new policy; some teachers were lost, others apply the new policy from their individual perspectives, and others follow their peers without understanding the core concept of ongoing assessment. Parents that are considered a vital partner in the implementation process were lost; they don't know how to deal with the new policy on the basis of teaching their children at home, grading system, and their function in the new policy. The situation in x-School is very complicated and certain corrective changes must be followed deal with this critical situation.

Ongoing assessment is considered one of the most successful teaching styles due to its daily observation of students' performance and its effectiveness in providing actual feedback concerning their performance if it is implemented effectively. It is skill based and includes a variety of assessment forms, like students' creativity, critical thinking, group work, projects, and differentiation between student levels.

Assessment refers to "the practices and procedures for monitoring and measuring learners' performance in relation to goals and objectives" (Vale, Scarino and McKay, 1991, p. 94), and according to Tina "Ongoing assessment is the process by which students get feedback on what they do, based on clearly articulated criteria for successful performances. It is, in essence, the process of reflecting on performances in order to gauge progress toward the understanding goals" (Blythe,1998). This kind of assessment occurs frequently in our daily life outside school, it is based on blending coaching to learning. Imagine a basketball coach working with his team during a practice session; he might begin by asking the team to concentrate on a few particular skills or moves. As the game starts, he studies and evaluates their moves, measuring them against the standards he explained to them before the game or in the practice session; by doing this the coach or the teacher can evaluate who understand the instructions and who did not in order to help them. What children do or discuss is observed and listened to and then analyzed according to a specific criteria that must be set to fit each subject. This ongoing process of assessment for learning is crucial to identifying where children are in their learning, what they need to learn next, and how they are doing (progress and attainment).

KHDA report, what did they talk about our assessment?

The result of the KHDA was acceptable concerning ongoing assessment, thee encourage the international tests "international tests offered valuable information in comparison with other schools in the region and word wide" (KHDA report, 2012), and they recommended the school management to concentrate more on the ongoing assessments in measuring the students' progress and attainment in regular basis instead of the tests that measure the students' performance once per term only, which either the x-school took inconsideration the KHDA report and recommendations and started implementing the change by canceling the tests for some subjects and replaces it by ongoing assessments in order to reduce the overload of doing tests over the students, monitor the students' progress regularly, and teachers regarding correction and other related activity. The administration decision was taken without deep analysis of the situation, and too many teachers have considered it as a reaction to KHDA recommendations rather than a well designed decision to solve the problem for many reasons.

What were the consequences of the change?

The teachers weren't able to facilitate the students' work in the small classrooms and do class activities due to the large number of the students in each class. For the importance of reports in reflecting the students performance in the ongoing assessment teachers had to spend more time filling reports and paper work which puts a huge load over the teachers in addition to their teaching hours. Also there was an external factor (parents) that believes in testing to measure their kid's knowledge and skills. In addition to the parents' comments and objections when the students have more than one quiz to do in the same day, and with the number of projects students should do. Some of the obstacles that faces the teachers in implementing the new changes is that there was no rules or policies to help teachers in dealing with the absent students, but the teacher should assign with the students in his free time. Also the number of versions of each quiz should be prepared by the teachers for different sections.

The Policy

Each policy is affected by the surroundings (stakeholders) that may interfere directly or indirectly in setting the policy. Good policy doesn't give margin for variations; it must have clear values, well articulated, the action required from this policy must be stated, and the methods of implementation must has to included in the policy. In x-School case, the policy was adapted by the administration to deal with the problem of evaluating student effectively, and finding standardized evaluating techniques. The core of the new policy was the ongoing assessment, but the policy itself was missing vital success factors. The policy doesn't mention anything related to the teacher role in the implementation part, how it will be applied, what other parties to be involved (supervisors and parents), and the changes in curriculums to facilitate the implementation process. This implicit policy is considered too short to discuss every single aspect related to the problem and put pressure on teachers to figure out personal solutions to deal with the new evaluation system.

The Phases of Change

Fullan [1] proposed that "there are four broad phases in the change process: initiation, implementation, continuation, and outcome". According to Fullan those phases must be applied effectively and progressively, good implementation can't be achieved if there is a problem in the initiation phase regarding the related factors. The error in the implementation will lead to problems in the other phases and the desired outcome will not be achieved.

Initiation Implementation continuation Outcome

Initiation is related to the factors affecting the initiation phase, and it is related to: existence and quality of innovation, access to innovations, advocacy from central administration, teacher advocacy, and external change agents. In our case the quality of innovation is considered outstanding if it is implemented effectively; the ongoing assessments as a solution must be adapted by the administration in order to be used in teaching and learning. The major question to be asked is if the teachers and external agents were involved in taking the decision of applying the ongoing assessments, will the implementation and the outcomes be improved? The ignorance of these two important factors in the initiation part will lead to major problems regarding the rest of phases due to the relation between them.

Fullan and Stigelbauer have identified three areas of the major factors affecting implementation, "characteristics of change, local characteristics and external factors (government and other agencies). There are different stakeholders in local, and governmental levels, and identified characterizations of change to each stakeholder and the issues that each stakeholder should consider before committing a change effort or rejecting it" (Fullan and Stigelbauer ,1991).

Characteristics of Change Local Factors External Factors (Fullan and Stigelbauer ,1991)

Characteristics of Change

Local Factors

External Factors

Need of change

Clarity about goals and needs

Complexity: the extent of change required to those responsible for implementation

Quality and practicality of the program

The school district

Board of community

Principal

Teacher

Government and other agencies

The need to change was realized by an external party (KHDA) on the school administration when the KHDA report mentioned that there is no testing standard and continuous evaluation for students. The report doesn't refer to any specific evaluation technique for testing and evaluating students' performance and what gives a school a time margin to consider available and possible evaluation techniques that fit school, students, and teachers. School administration must consider the quality factor of the adapted system that fit both internal and external factors.

Continuation is a decision about institutionalization of an innovation based on the reaction to the change which may be negative or positive. The situation at x-school is that the change has set into the structure through administration policy and timetable (changed twice during the year). Fullan (2004) said "change cannot be managed. It can be understood and perhaps led, but it cannot be controlled". The administration didn't put enough effort to convince teachers with the change which generate a critical mess to administrators and teachers who are skilled and committed to the new policy, because the method in applying it varies between teachers according to their skills and their abilities to accept that change. Continuing assistance must be led and adopted by the administration in order to achieve the intended results from the new policy.

Attention to the following perspectives on the change process may support the achievement of a positive or successful change outcome, the outcome in this case is considered partial due to various factors like the short period of adaptation and implementation, the absence of end of year evaluation, the internal feedback (teachers), and external feedback parents.

Evaluation of x-school Experience (from managerial point of view)

Planning

Effective planning helps ensure that attention and effort are placed where they are most needed. Lack of planning is considered the major problem in this case; the application of the new policy of ongoing assessment was based on a reaction to the KHDA report without any consideration to many related factor of context, stakeholders, and other considerations that must be considered in the planning process. Planning is considered a vital factor regarding the success of any policy; it is the outline to guide everyone involved in the changing process; without planning the change process will be ineffective. Good planning will give the school enough time to prepare teachers as a major factor in the implementation process, and the families that must be aware of this new policy (external factor) because they are a major partner in the implementation, and their feedback is very useful in the new policy evaluation process.

The Implementation

Ongoing assessment is considered one of the best evaluating systems that provide daily observation of students' academic performance, detect academic problems efficiently, and provide help immediately. The problems are not in the policy or its values, but in the implementation of the policy and the lack of communication between various parts responsible for applying the policy. The implementation gap between the administration and teachers is a result of many factors, which could arise from the policy itself, the policy maker, or the environment in which the policy has been made. Teachers' contribution in setting the policy is needed for achieving effective implementation, to Makinde "unproductive planning means that planning is top-down. And, by implication, the target beneficiaries are not allowed to contribute to the formulation of the policies that affect their lives; the target groups could be the teachers, students, and families." (Makinde, 2005)

Transformational Leader

Transformational leadership is a desirable style for school leaders involved in improvement efforts because it raises the level of awareness of workers, so that they come to value organizational goals and strategies to achieve those objectives. To Burns 'characterized transformational leaders and distinguished them from managers because of their special ability to bring about organizational innovation and change. Transformational leaders change organizational culture by introducing new beliefs and goals and by changing how group members define their roles' (Burns, 1978) The leadership spirit was absent in x-School. The absence of the vision was obvious; successful schools don't run on reactions, they run on planning. Good leader must know how to deal with the teachers, communicate with them, and delegate them when necessary. Knowing the problem will help the leader in setting strategies and use suitable leadership style to go with the problem (each problem has its suitable leadership style). Successful leaders are those who differentiate their leadership styles or blend more than one style to solve same problem based on teachers, students, and various reasons to be taken into consideration.

Commitment and Participation

Successful school is the one that has strong commitment from people inside (teachers) and outside the organization (parents) will result an environment for sustainable development. In x-School case, this commitment was weak due to various reasons of not involving the teachers in formulating the new policy, training them to deal with the new policy, explaining to them how this policy is going to help them in developing their teaching styles and students academic performance. The adaptation process to new policy is still new, and the school can improve teachers' commitment in a way to gain their support as they are considered a vital factor in the implementation process; teacher commitment is a key factor influencing the teaching-learning process.

Conclusion

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