All of you invaluable readers are heartily welcome to some of my words that I have attempted to express hereby on the ground of my experiences as a student, as a guardian, as a language facilitator and as a member of the society where I have directly and indirectly observed and felt the tests of diversities. Since it is based on my perceptions, it is more particular than general, though I have tried my level best to bring some academically supported related facts and trends in some different way. I am hopeful for your making me grateful to you by dropping some comments to help me extend the horizons of vision!
What is testing?
Test! As the word echoes in the ears of the concerned, they feel different kinds of sensations; they get several varied feelings and ideas hovering over their heads, on how to manage, how to tackle, how to get through and many more. Let me place the three ways how people have understood a test. Here they are:
-It is a kind of tension and trauma to most of the fellows
-It is tricks and the acts of teasing to several
-It is of course a great trip to few
Such statistics attached to my experience shows that most of the fellows hate having to face it or recklessly dare to surpass the lines of moral acts, i.e. helplessly breaking the norms and values set for an IDEAL test. Why so? Why does a test sound so horrible to most of the test takers? Is a test really so terrifying? We can confer with the sufferers and disclose that they have always found themselves in odd situations, confused at how to get through with the limited tools available and uncertain supports which they are supposed to get certainly.
Secondly, several of the people who are holding the revelantly responsible posts administratively feel they neither have to do anything with the outcome of test nor need at least to take some moral responsibility for being indifferent to the future of the testees and do something justifiable either by taking firm steps challenging the hindrances like the outgoing Chief Justice Ram Prasad Shrestha or by resigning the post as a bold step like the former finance secretary Rameshwore Khanal. Wow! Let’s give a give hand to them, shall we?
Thirdly, test is simply a great trip to few fellows who have been equipped with most of the advanced educational tools at their own expense, who have made timely preparation without looking to the concerned bodies and considered it as an opportunity to find out how far and how smoothly they have come so far and what would be the fruit of their journey like on getting to the destination set.
“Dear fellows, you have to have been born with a silver spoon in your mouth in this country to be lucky enough to taste a test in the third way!”
Now, shall we have an open tête-à-tête on testing?
Do you agree TESTING refers to the way of carrying out a test? It signals HOW, whereas test indicates WHAT! Are we all, irrespective of designations, satisfied with the way or ways of carrying out a test or tests in our localities except at some institutions? NO will get overwhelming majority, as a landslide victory over YES. Have we ever tried to detect WHY? Have we ever made an attempt to pick holes on our own part? Perhaps, NO! Or, perhaps, YES in words, but NO in action!! Let’s not worry, because it is NONE OF OUR BUSINESS! I am, by God, not making any satire or ironical expression! To your contentment that I am not CHEATING, let’s enter the next episode below, shall we?
Test: in search of identity
I wish I could have named this part Clash of The Titans but my mind found the same more justifiable, since we are not going to watch a Hollywood film though we can get visible Clashes, i.e. disagreements, among Titans, i.e. scholarly heroes, over the identification of test in this part.
According to Jacobovits (1970:75), what it is to know a language is not well understood so the language proficiency tests that are now available and universally used are inadequate because they attempt to measure something that has not been well defined. It means language is a complex human-specific system and it is a brain-racking job what aspect of it is to be tested. Anyway, we are not sure what exactly we are to measure, yet we are to measure! What a puzzle!
Hughes (1989:1) roars shedding light on the imprecision of most of the tests that result in the failure. Simply, test is next to failure. But, for your kind information, he doesn’t advocate for failure to replace tests with. What he has brought to light is that in most of the cases or situations tests have failed to measure what exactly they are administered to. So, they have often served horrible tastes to teaching and learning, perhaps a nightmare for those who make efforts sleeplessly. But, sorrowfully, testing has not been worth disposing till the date. Moreover, they are growing in different shapes and sizes. Aren’t testees getting more bewildered?
Davies (1968:1-2) – Davies seems to have somewhat clear idea about language testing that he opines as the tendency to follow the teaching methodology. That is testing how proficient someone is in the second language is shaped by teaching methodologies. It means the methodologies can possibly introduce the modes of tests so as to measure the second language proficiency.
Farhady(1983:311) – Farhady has his own experience in connection with methods. To be frank, as I have understood Farhady’s, we devise a method today to be thrown away tomorrow as something worthless, just like a knock-out boxing championship, in which a new champion appears knocking out the former one questioning the validity of his competence and performance. It conveys succeeding methods are obliged to come down on preceding ones directly questioning their validity. That may be why today’s methodologists have refrained from such bitter knock-out trends and joined hands and declared post-method era. Simply, it illustrates that no methods are superior to the other ones; methods of any sort having feasibility to help learners get ahead are adoptable whether they are from renowned methodologists or locally developed.
Anyway, some scholars have addressed language ability as a target of test. But, to our amazement, there seems to have surfaced another episode of the clash over what language ability is. A new type of test it is, isn’t it?
Bachman(1990) advocates for a clear-cut definition of the ability to try to find out the ground of consensus. Lado(1961) placed his definition of language ability ;and, it had to face a bitter challenge from Oller(1979) who himself failed to explain to the advocates of communicative language testing. It indicates what is to be tested is still unclear. Yet, we are having to give and take a test, as a journey on which we can’t exactly decide what our destination is. Although it is widely acceptable that testing has focused on different aspects of language in different eras, yet it is criticized for failing to zero in on the exact target. To put in different words, it is dynamic; it is changing with the change in the way of viewing the aspects of language as demanded by time.
To speak my mind as a summed-up view in this regard, test itself is incomplete. It has created a big non-ending dispute on the international arena, perplexing even highly renowned scholars, much more Nepalese scholars, and much much more Nepalese testees – poor fellows. It is just like entering a labyrinth to get out to the desired career somewhere on the other side. So, it is natural that the students, the poor fellows, who have been left helpless at the crossroads, demand enough looseness in course of battling tests, and moreover in the republican system! And, it is solely up to the responsible how justifiably they maintain the balance between the LOOSENESS and TIGHTNESS during the tests with a broad vision. Shall we step further below to enjoy the history (or MYSTERY?) of the balance?
Tests of TU: toddling to the balancing act!
TU, in the sight of many more students and teachers, is still holding high dignity as an iconic figure but its ever/never-changing conditions have long been the matter of concern to the true concerned people. Just as political changes that have occurred in Nepal, similarly to many more students and guardians, the exam systems of TU seem to have had radical changes just from despotic through democratic to republican. In the past I can still remember the teaching and testing used to hold some reasonable balance. Almost all the subjects used to be complete in time. The teachers were so much worried about how they could satisfy the students, and so were the students’ union as well as the administration. I still recall the extra classes given by our physics teacher Jagadish Mandal on Saturday. Almost all the students attended the classes. And, the exams were too tight to have even a side-talk! We all felt justice at that time. In today’ version of perception, that was the despotic reign of TU; and no doubt we still feel proud of having gone through the ordeals for our own achievement. Later on, the system got democratized. That is there appeared different unions including those of teachers and administrative staff growing their influences in favor of their interests. As a result, haphazard tug-of-war pulled the established system out of its shape. Sorrowfully, teaching and cheating were seen to have come to the point of agreement compromising the quality students were supposed to have had as their fundamental right. And, cheating started to find logical space during the exams – a democratic slogan: Everything has right to exercise power for its existence and enhancement! By and large, directly or indirectly, TU itself seemed to have given half consent to what had begun as a new practice, i.e. cheating is the new arrangement of the fundamentals of teaching (anyone can get excited to learn that on rearranging the letters of TEACHING we can get a word CHEATING – what a coincidence or a morphological plan the English made for the Nepalese education to suit!). Now we are exercising republican system. We can see countless fragmented groups demanding the security of their own diversified interests no matter what, where and when. All the organs of the system are fighting for their more significant approaches and prominent positions such as teaching department, administrative department, and examination department and so on. And, why can’t the students, the symbol of young blood, the tsunami of changes in any sector, stand in the lead amongst the multiple clashes? Of course, they must have reasonable interference in any field, much more in the exam halls.
Nepal is a wonderland of many more existences. We can get countless mind-boggling phenomena and happenings here. Not to speak of Nepalese even foreign scholars from developed countries can’t help but start scratching their heads in wonders over the dual educational scenario in our country – too flexible and too inflexible. What is too flexible to retain an understandable shape is that today’s exam halls in most of the centers are equipped with the highly sophisticated scientific technologies, such as using cell phones for easy access to questions and answers – exercising human right of unimpeded access to information! And, what is too inflexible to understand is that almost all the systems from teaching to testing in our country are bizarrely outdated in the present context, yet we are still sticking to them and surviving anyhow!
So the tests of TU refer not only to the tests set by TU for the students to go through but also those TU itself is having to undergo. The students are managing anyhow to go through them, but poor TU seems to have failed each and every test it has set itself for itself! The balancing act is at risk, isn’t it?
Silence is now full consent!
There is a common saying “Silence is half consent”, but it dramatically shifts to a novel saying “Silence is full consent”. Just a few days ago, I read a piece of news on the rift appearing slowly in a political party in our soil. That was the state of deadlock the leaders on two sides were in. One leader explained that they were in a great dilemma in the ongoing transitional phase. What he added was ‘The circumstance says: Don’t kill any living creature; don’t bring the flesh of a dead body; and, don’t come back empty-handed’. Now in our educational context in relation to tests, the dialogue might go like this: We can’t say “Do cheating at the exams”, and we can give you neither enough time to prepare nicely enough nor duly guidance! So directly or indirectly cheating is gaining stronger moral ground these days, isn’t it?
It has been my own bitter experience so far. I do feel like adding a lot here, but I do respect your reading patience so I am clarifying in short why so.
It is an open secret to you all what kinds of facilities students are enjoying to pursue their higher studies – libraries with no or insufficient related books, no (updated) teaching calendar, uncertainty of examination dates, course completion in time as a far cry, too great a delay in publishing exam results, no time for re-totaling, the lack of enough time to prepare properly for the papers the examinees have failed in. what could we expect from the students in such adverse situations, if not cheating or something else similar to that? How could the concerned bodies find themselves comfortable to give moral lessons? I can’t at all say I am just advocating for cheating. I am just trying to express that there must be more powerful options for the students to get allured out of the compulsion of or inclination to CHEATING. What could be the master plan? Isn’t it high time the responsibility holders devised it?
Testing or getting tested
As most of the scholars have undertaken test as a two-way traffic, since it not only tests how far students have got ahead in the line of their competence growth but also measures how successful the teachers have been in selecting the right directions in the line of duty. In fact, it is more crucial on the part of teachers, not students, in relation to how learner-oriented the teaching has been made. And, it also goes without saying scholarly arguments over what exactly tests are aimed at have posed a challenge to the efficacy of tests. In general, tests are meant to measure whether students’ command on the language skills is up to standard or not. And, quality tests are considered to be balanced on the tripod of validity, reliability and practicality, of which validity has held the highest value till today and practicality the lowest. Such an old-established concept and clarification must be open to fresh discussions to evaluate them afresh, as we have found a growing number of teachers, educationists, and experts advocating for deconstructionism. If you let me speak my mind, we must follow the reverse order, that is practicality matters the most and validity the least. If what we are inclined to achieve or have achieved fails to have practicality, it is outdated in the world of technologies and deserves a trash can. Simply, you have spent your time and money on something but it doesn’t make any sense in practice or you cannot use it practicably. Would you like to bear any more tension holding it on any longer? If what we have attained supports us effectively in almost all the related moves of ours, I hope nobody can cast a doubt over its sustainable consistency and it does have high reliability. And, if something is practicably reliable, it is automatically valid, isn’t it? I believe that is the way we now need to be in action – a novel test to be tested, since we may have been exhausted with our countless attempts to make the teaching and learning of English as a foreign language fruitful on the whole. Only then teaching will no longer get eclipsed by cheating. And, the certificate will no longer remain simply a piece of paper but hard-earned bread! And, the exams will no longer remain tilted to the written modes of communication but balanced on written (reading and writing) and oral (listening and speaking) ones. And, it would be wise to commence with what is to be tested and in what ways in consonance with our soil and soul.
Let’s be hopeful for the RISE!
Doff, A. (1988). Teach English- A training course for teachers (Trainers’ Handbook and Teachers’ Book). Cambridge: CUP.
Khaniya, T. R. (2005). Examination for enhanced Learning. Kathmandu: Kishore Khaniya.
Sharma, B. K. & P. B. Phyak. (2008). Teaching English language. Kathmandu: Sunlight Publication.