Why Canadian youth are taught to test?
In Canada, I am lucky enough to receive an extremely high-quality education. I think we can all agree that this is beneficial to students, yet some of Canada’s education policies seem to be counter to this logic.
By using standardized testing as a metric of success we are only measuring what can be easily expressed in a few digits, not the long-term education that constitutes lifelong learning, such as critical thinking, inquiry or emotional education.
We have an education system in Canada that is for the most part not nationally organized, rather it is run on the Provincial level. Effectively. this means is that other than a small number of national and international initiatives, Provinces are free to create their own curriculums and educational standards. With this power, many Provinces have created standardized tests such as Alberta’s Provincial achievement test (PAT).
These standardized tests are typically a series of multiple-choice and written assessments, typically administered by a teacher. Many see these test as inaccurate and inefficient while also distracting from what we should be learning.
The reason people see standardized test like this is because there is little evidence to bolster the argument that they actually help students. Whereas as there is a growing pool of research that standardized tests pull the focus of education away from lifelong skills and more towards teaching just so that students can do well on the test also know as ‘teaching to the test’. Seeing as tests cannot accurately measure many vital aspects of a student’s performance if a teacher does teach to the test then the students will miss out on all of them just as important (if not more so) education that isn’t or can’t be on the test.
This is a convincing argument to abolish these types of tests even without considering many other factors like student stress, corruption, and the quality of the tests. So what possible doing of contention could a politician or educator have for keeping standardized tests as a mandatory piece of the education system?
Well, they often say that the statistics that come from these tests help them better budgets for the education system and give governing bodies an idea what’s working and what isn’t.
It is also often stated these imperial metrics give the ability to have easy comparisons of schools and areas. These comparisons can help schools and provinces know where to add funding to education. By doing this that can reward good educational practices and defund bad practices. Though even this has come under fire because some feel that if teachers think that if they don’t teach to the test they will lose funding it makes them more likely to teach to the test.
I Believe that the better solution would most definitely be to have a holistic and ongoing assessment carried out by teachers. What this means is that teachers can include a multitude of other factors other than just what can be on a test. A teacher is also able to look at the learning needs of a child and surest and implement solutions to any educational deficits.
So whether Canadian Provinces will continue to use standardized testing is yet to see in the long term, but in the short term we know there there are currently no major plans for Provinces to eliminate provincial tests though Alberta made a step 6 years ago when it eliminate its province-wide test for grade 3 students.
If you feel passionately about this issue I urge you to participate to the fullest extent by seeing letters to and interviewing your provincial minister for education. If you don’t live in Canada there is not much you can do to change Canadian politics but you can learn from the lessons they learned about how tests can affect students and their education.By Joshua Himmens CORIA Canada Sources:
- Johnson, Tim. “The Future of Standardized Testing in Canada.” Canadian Living, 11 Aug. 2014, https://www.canadianliving.com/life-and-relationships/family/article/the-future-of-standardized-testing-in-canada.
- “The Facts on Education.” Edcan.ca, https://www.edcan.ca/wp-content/uploads/CEA-2014-FOE-standardized-testing.pdf.
- “Standardized Testing: Fair or Not?” The University of Lethbridge, https://www.uleth.ca/teachingcentre/standardized-testing-fair-or-not.