ECD Assessment should be about immediate feedback on the process, not a report on the product. We need to develop a Portfolio of Excellence on children rather than a Report on Failures
Early childhood development centres (ECD) are feeling the effect of Covid-19 and the lack of fee payment. There is an urgency to deliver a product by the ECD fraternity to ensure that the paying parents are receiving value for money despite their children not coming to school. In order to do this they bring in the dreaded assessment strategy and some are even asking parents to deliver evidence of what the child has done at home.
The Donkey and the Time
It reminds me of the hilarious You Tube video of a farmer relaxing in the field alongside his donkey. A passer-by on a motor-bike asks him for the time. He rolls over and lifts the pendulous testicles of the donkey in his hand and declares the time to be 10:10. Later in the day the passerby stops again and asks the time. The farmer does the same thing and provides him with the exact time. Astonished at what he had seen twice in one day, the passerby asks the farmer to please teach him how he can tell the time in such an unusual way.
The farmer encourages him that it is simple. He shows him how to cup the testicles in his one hand and gently lift them. The passerby is so focused on the task, that he fails to see that when the testicles are lifted there is a church steeple, with a clock in sight. It is only when the farmer points out the clock in the distance that he realises that the appendages were simply blocking a good view of the truth.
Assessment in schools can be crudely described as becoming a true donkey “balls-up”. The assessment seems to be far more important than the big picture – the global image, the time on the steeple in the distance. Assessment should be about immediate feedback on the process, not a report on the product. I am not interested in what a child can do at home. I’m interested in what the child can say, whether they can think, create, innovate and discuss with others.
May I encourage ECD centres to avoid this constant pressure of assessment on what the child can’t do. Focus on what the child can do in terms of the various age appropriate processes. The best way to give feedback is to watch children playing. I wish that the ECD teacher had asked the parents to send a candid video of their child playing. We need to develop a Portfolio of Excellence on children and not a Report on Failures. Imagine, a parent sending in a series of videos where they caught their child doing amazing feats.
Parents have been highly stressed during the Covid-19 season while the world has gone crazy around them. Many, who managed to hold onto their jobs, have found parenting, teaching and earning a living a bridge too far. Now is the time for teachers to back off and serve as coaches – guiding, supporting, encouraging and sharing their experience. Now is the time to see the big picture, to look beyond the current moment and grow our young people into confident, competent citizens.