Number of national tests has decreased, not increased: MoE

THE Ministry of Education (MoE) would like to refer to the letter ‘Quantity over quality: Too many assessments for students in a year’ by A Concerned Citizen published in the Opinion page of the Borneo Bulletin on January 30, 2019.

The ministry would like to thank the writer for his/her concerns with regards to assessments in schools.

The MoE welcomes informed debate about measuring student learning in Brunei Darussalam.

There has been much discussion about assessments recently in education globally and this is true in our local context as well.

MoE’s Centralised Assessment Unit (CAU), managed by officers from key departments including the Department of Schools, manages the development and implementation of the Student Assessment Tracker (SAT).

SAT is the national assessment developed to measure students’ competency in reading, writing and numeracy skills and science.

It is championed by senior officials and is technically coordinated by the Department of Examinations.

The number of national tests undertaken by students has not increased as suggested in the post, rather it has decreased.

Assessments such as the standardised Checkpoint Assessments and the Secondary Standardised Assessments are no longer used as measurements of student learning.

SAT uses best practice measurement techniques similar to those used in international tests such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), by adopting the use of common link items.

These items allow for a more accurate measurement of students’ progress and ensures both validity and reliability.

When common link items are in use, this means that the same exact questions may appear in the same or different year level assessments.

Due to the fact that this assessment does not share the same objectives as the Year 8 SPE, their mark schemes cannot be similar.

As is practised in many good quality assessments, there is an adequate distribution of questions with different levels of difficulties.

Therefore, developers do their best to ensure that there is a good number of easy, medium and difficult questions in each assessment.

The data analysis produced after the SAT in 2018 has proved that this was successfully achieved.

According to the Year 6 Literacy 2018 analysis, our students are about one year ahead of the expected level of competency.

It is only when there are a number of difficult questions included in this assessment that we are able to get this measurement.

The assessment unit is in the early stages of formation and the ministry acknowledges that some technical challenges have occurred in the first year of its administration.

It has undertaken a review of the 2018 SAT addressing all issues encountered, and mitigation actions have been put in place for 2019.

There is high commitment to ensure that all standard operating procedures set especially in item panelling, moderating and administration handbooks are stringently followed and monitored.

All teachers in our schools assess their students in every lesson they conduct.

The Teaching for Mastery for Literacy and Numeracy, which is a guide for delivering quality teaching, has been implemented in our schools and a key part of this framework is the Assessment for Learning (AfL). A revised outline of AfL has been socialised to all schools to support our teachers.

The ministry is working to ensure that all forms of assessments, formative and summative, are aligned with the aim of maximising teaching and learning time in the classroom and minimising standardised assessments.

The MoE is committed to improving its student testing to ensure that the student learning objectives described in the National Education System for the 21st Century (SPN21) in line with our national Vision 2035 will provide Brunei Darussalam’s youth with quality learning that is benchmarked internationally.

The public can direct any comment or feedback in these matters to the Department of Examinations through exam.dept@moe.gov.bn or written notes addressed to the Director of Examinations, Ministry of Education, Bandar Seri Begawan, BB3510, Negara Brunei Darussalam.

– Ministry of Education