Friday, January 8, 2016

Crazy Chinese Testing Regime Which Will Wipe Out ETS

Yes, we  all know that the Chinese educational system is hidebound and bogged down by dronish memorization toward an utterly determinative college-entrance exam which is composed of yes/no questions or essays whose "right" answer depends on understanding the party line. So no wonder China can only copy and not create, right?

Well, not exactly, but I won't get into that here. I just took a three minute test to get my standardized Chinese score, perhaps a kind of TOEFL score for Chinese, called HSK. I have some confidence in the score, mostly because I "get" the way the test is run. Simple really  - it flashes in front of you progressively more difficult words, starting with written characters plus the pinyin pronunciation, and gradually letting go of the pronunciation and giving you the written words alone.

Based on your response for each challenge, the next card will raise the stakes or lower them until you have statistically reached your max. If you take too long you're going to hobble your score, so no time for a dictionary.

It reminds me of the test I take every year to make sure my incipient glaucoma isn't messing up my peripheral vision, called a visual fields test. Little lights are flashed at odd intervals around the periphery of your vision, up to its limits including control lights toward the center, all of greater of lesser brightness while you stare at a dot in the middle. I don't enjoy the test, and apparently no-one does, but it only takes about three minutes, and it has a high degree of reliability.

You'd think people would like the visual fields test, since it's really a straightforward computer shoot-em-up. Hmmmmm, maybe educators make the same mistake when they think that kids want to play instead of learn.

I don't know, but I don't see why the same principle couldn't easily replace many of the droning torturous exams we put our kids through in the name of accountability. None of these help the teacher to know where to target teaching. It's all just part of the surveillance state, designed to keep people regimented and scared. Kind of like the way we think of China.

I know that this sort of algorithmic process is often used in computer-based learning, but I'd say we should implement it wholesale in the process of both formative and summative examination. It should work just fine for those subject areas where it might be appropriate - most certainly all the much-vaunted STEM fields - and relieve our kids of the terrorism of testing. And while we're at it, stop testing for willingness to be subjected to such testing and to be exposed as deficient for that. Right?

Maybe I was just pleased that I eked out the top level by scoring just above 5000. Who needs a do-over with that! Or maybe I'll wait until I finish The Three Body Problem in its original Chinese. Take that Zuck!

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