With the annual examination season just behind us and results round the corner, it is a time of bated anticipation for students, parents, and educators alike. It may also be an opportune time to reflect on the shift around assessment practice that is currently underway in our country.

The National Education Policy 2020 calls for transforming assessments such that it optimises learning and development of all students in school. Shift from content-centred to competency-based assessment is at the core of reforms being initiated to move towards improved assessment practice. A clear message is that assessments do not inevitably mean examinations. A 360-degree holistic assessment that is continuous and puts student learning at the centre has been envisioned.

Reforming assessments is not just a matter of changing the format and methods of assessing student learning. It entails working towards a shift in mindsets of education stakeholders to transform the assessment ecosystem. In an absence of this impetus, the risk of falling back on conventional and familiar practices looms large.

Here is an attempt to unpack what might be the primary tenets of the shifts in the assessment ecosystem:

First, reforming and strengthening institutions that teach and assess. For this, the establishment of state assessment cells aligned to the National Assessment Centre PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development) is a good first step. What would be critical is further penetration of capacity and decision making around assessment practice to the district level. The role of DIETs could be as spokes to the hub state assessment cell.

Second, building systemic capacity continuously and comprehensively. To transform the way students experience assessments, it would be important to reimagine how relevant systemic actors engage with the process. This includes building capacity of school, block, district and state level functionaries. For instance, the role of academic monitoring/mentoring cadre to supervise and ensure an unbiased and fear-free assessment environment for students. Or, the collaboration between head teachers, teachers, and special educators to create an inclusive assessment plan for children with special needs. Interlinkages among stakeholders to effect this shift in how assessments are undertaken are critical.

Third, leveraging existing resources and emerging technology to strengthen backward and forward linkages of assessments. While the adoption of technology for the purpose of assessing student learning in every classroom or school may be a subject of continued debate and experiment, its use in making sense of data emerging from assessments is undisputed. Assessment data, especially for large-scale education systems like ours, is a potent tool to check on the health of the system.

Finally, empowering those at the frontline of the assessment process — teachers and students. For teachers to look at assessments as an integral part of their classroom practice, it is important for their capacity building programmes be designed on those lines. For example, pre-service courses can embed assessments as part of curricular modules. In-service programmes should establish linkages with classroom practice.

For students to experience assessments beyond the dreaded ‘examinations’, it would require demystification of assessments. When students begin seeing sense and logic in why and how they are being assessed and start leveraging assessment data themselves, they will look at it beyond grades, averages, and ranks and be active partners in the entire process.

The writer is Advisor- Education and Skills Practice, KPMG in India. Views expressed are personal