1.Limitations of standardized tests (Live Mint)

2.Local drought Management lessons that INDIA can adopt (The Hindu)

1.Limitations of standardized tests (Live Mint)

Synoptic line: It throws light on how Very little of the testing in our education system serves the student or her learnings. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • The Indian student who leaves high school would have already taken hundreds of tests and examinations. This reality has not changed much in decades. What purpose does this testing serve?
  • A test can be used to choose a few from a large number, which is what organizations do when deciding whom to recruit. Such a test assesses whether the person who has applied for a role has the required capacities.

 Shortcomings of standard tests

  • We know that testing cannot assess all the capacities. In fact, it may not be able to assess the most important ones. This is why testing is often used as a preliminary “shortlisting” tool, followed by other methods of assessment such as group discussions and interviews and the evaluation of past work. Not even in our wildest imagination will we recruit solely on the basis of a test for our own organization.
  • A test can also be used to certify a person. Passing examinations can certify an individual as a professional accountant or a medical practitioner. But such certification often uses more complex assessment, not just standard tests. In another form, the diagnostic test identifies what the person does not know adequately, and therefore needs to spend more time on.
  • Let us note two other matters related to testing. First, the simplicity and efficiency of tests make them easy to administer. Second, that the worst tests can be so narrow that all that they assess is mere rote memorization. The better tests can do a lot more, assessing complex capacities such as problem-solving and critical thinking.

Crucial trade-offs

  • there is often a trade-off between the efficiency of testing and the useful information that it produces. It is possible to design and implement complex tests for individuals and small groups that produce rich information, but the customization, complexity and investment of time of good assessors reduce efficiency.
  • Here is the problem. Very little of the testing in our education system serves the student or her learning. It is mostly used to compare, to rank students, and to offer or deny further opportunities. Such testing pretends to be objective, but is rarely so. Every one of us who has experienced such testing is acutely aware of its severe limitations and the stress it produces. We will never depend solely or primarily on them for important decisions.
  • Still, the testing of children seems unstoppable. One of the most egregious tortures that we put children through is the various kinds of college entrance processes. Almost all of these are dependent on testing to select for admission or the results of “board exams”. The test-trauma that afflicts the life of children of this age is well-known. Unfortunately, it is also equally well-entrenched in our society.
  • So, by widespread social sanction, here is what we are saying: While we know the severe limitations of standardized testing, we will use it to make one of the most important decisions in the lives of all our children. And let our children suffer now and consequently.
  • This kind of testing for college entrance and the “board exam” is the prototypical example of high-stakes testing. Combine the limited real usefulness of tests with high stakes, and we have the perfect recipe for dysfunctionality that has afflicted our education system for decades, each child being judged to have passed or failed, based on tests.

What can be done?

  • The first big step to change this perverse test-tyranny was taken by the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act or Right to Education Act (RTE). The RTE abolished examinations and the related policy of failing children and detaining them in the same grade, up to class VIII. Testing was replaced by the much better Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation system (CCE). CCE regularly assesses student progress in multiple ways and uses the feedback in the teaching-learning process.
  • It gives a continuous progress record and specific inputs for improving learning. Research evidence across the world suggests that such methods, called formative assessments, tend to improve student learning. Interpreted well, they also inform the teacher what she needs to do to improve her teaching. For once, our education system attempted to turn away from testing that just labelled the child to serve external interests, to assessment that could give useful information to the teacher and student.
  • But we now have a chorus of demands to abolish CCE and the no-detention policy (NDP). As a result, it appears certain now that the RTE will be amended to enable the reintroduction of examinations in elementary schools (up to class VIII)) and the scrapping of the NDP. If implemented, this takes our educational system a few steps back.
  • The CCE does everything testing can do and more, with much better consequences. It just doesn’t give the reductionist method of sorting and classifying children that testing does. And this is inconvenient to some education administrators, educators, and even many parents. Educating each child is their responsibility, but it is far easier to transfer that responsibility to the child and declare her to have passed or failed.

Way ahead

  • It is quite remarkable that we are willing to return to testing and labelling our children, the limitations and perversity of which we are all aware of. Our children cannot complain. But the damage to their education and the costs inflicted on the nation’s future are there to stay.

Question–  How standardised tests limit the potential of students? What can be done in this regard?

2.Local drought Management lessons that INDIA can adopt (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on how by restoring ancient indigenous systems of Bidar, water life could be sustained. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • Ground water has become the most vulnerable water resources because it has few higher qualities compared to surface water as it is protected from the direct pollution and most importantly the seasonal and perineal fluctuations hardly matter and ground water is much more uniformly spread and conserving ground water is cost effective and reliable and is suitable for any kind of land.
  • Hence ground water conservation and recharging has been gaining momentum across world. But this traditional device is today on the verge of destruction and disappearance.
  • Karez, the subterranean aqueduct system in Bidar is unique not only by Indian standards, but also globally.

What is karez system?

  • One of the most unique features of Bidar is the historic ‘Karez’ system (also known as Qanat) which is a water harnessing technology that originated in Iran/Persia.
  • The ‘Karez’ system in Bidar is of great historic significance dating back to almost 500 years. The karez technology basically taps into the ground water sources (or natural springs) and transports it through an underground tunnel to the settlement, ending in surface canal and pools in the village for various uses like drinking, washing, ablution, watering livestock and also further used for irrigating fields, orchards and gardens.
  • The structure was unique for three reasons-
  • It transfers water from a low-lying watershed to a higher altitude;
  • It uses techniques of a reservoir, water duct and a step well;
  • Every square inch of the karez is a rainwater harvesting and filtering system as it has been carved out of laterite rock.

Background

  • Karez system was built by Bahmani kings in 15th Century by the Bahmani kings in Bidar, Gulbarg and Bijapur in Karnataka and also in Burhanpur in Madhya Pradesh.
  • Karez is nothing but the Underground canals, built to underground water streams which are meant to provide drinking water to civilian settlements and garrison inside the Bidar fort.
  • This system was necessary in a city like Bidar where the soil was rocky and drilling wells to accommodate drinking water was difficult.
  • It is believed that the Muslim rulers of Bidar, under the expert advice of Persian engineers followed Karez system by laying subterranean canals in the heart of the rock by widening the natural rift.
  • The Naubad Karez is estimated to have been constructed during the Bahmani Period (1347 – 1518 AD). The Karez was probably directed towards developing infrastructure for a village at Naubad.

Importance for Bidar

  • Bidar is semi-arid region that receives 60-100 cm of rainfall annually. Its terrain is uniquely composed of ‘duricrust’ honeycomb-structured laterite (hard but porous and capable of absorbing rain water when forested with the right vegetation), below which lies the impermeable basalt of the Deccan trap that does not allow what is collected to percolate away.
  • Following the overall deficit rainfall since 2012, most of Bidar’s bawdis and kalyanis (open wells and tanks respectively) ran dry. When this happened, people took the karez and bawdis seriously and it was easier to generate awareness about them. In a way, the crisis became an opportunity.
  • Being a drought prone area, restoration of karez system is definitely very much importance of livelihood.
  • Bidar YUVAA (Youth United for Vigilance, Awareness and Action) is carry forwarding Kerala-based geologist and Professor Govindan Kutty’s work on the ground, engaging on local authorities to undertake the de-silting and cleaning of wells as part of MGNREGA projects; litigating against the encroachment of watershed land; protesting the proliferation of indiscriminately deeper tube wells that have caused the water table to drop drastically, adversely impacting the karez’s mathematical reliance on gradients; planting over one lakh indigenous trees so that rainwater wouldn’t run off before it could be absorbed; and creating awareness to prevent the dumping of garbage, and open defecation, along the karez.

Challenges

  • One of biggest challenges in the restoration of Karez is 1.5-km-long Kamthana embankment to the south-west of the city, which falls on the old route between Bidar and Gulbarga, the breached embankment is seen with its moat in ruins, the adjoining forested areas barren, and the tank to which its water channels lead in shambles.
  • Another challenge is a ring road proposed by the Bidar Urban Development Authority’s Master Plan, which connects to the Naubad-Hyderabad highway and bypasses Bidar town, bifurcates the second of two agricultural zones that used to be fed by the karez, endangering the system.
  • Rapid urban development is causing the unique laterite plateau to erode. Railway line cuts through the catchment area of the Naubad embankment, which lies directly above geologic fractures or water movement channels called lineaments.
  • However, state is restoring karez efficiently, The Department of Tourism is funding some of restoration work, and Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation has also identified the conservation of the Naubad karezsystem as one of 17 projects shortlisted for a pilot study.

Way ahead

  • The awareness programme with karez system importance will be very helpful, involvement of NGOs, local leaders will also expedite the restoration activity. Moreover, a cue should be taken and more environmentally sustainable indigenous methods should be adopted at local levels. They will be even cheaper substitutes and they will provide boost to local expertise and know how as well.

Question: What indigenous methods and traditional wisdom can be employed to fight water scarcity?