Standardized testing: a case of annual national assessments in South African primary schools
Standardized assessments are becoming a norm internationally. Governments have turned to standardized assessments due to mounting pressure by citizens for accountability, quality education, transparency, and increased public confidence in education. In South Africa, the observed learning deficiencies and prolonged performance decline have prompted the Department of Basic Education to resort to standardized testing as an option to respond to the pressing educational problems. The Annual National Assessment (ANA) is a state-mandated standardized tool to measure learners’ competency in selected subjects and to improve the quality of instruction. While standardized tests are generally perceived as being educationally profitable, this paper presents perceptual views of teachers and school principals who believe that ANA tests help them neither to achieve competency in learning nor to secure excellence in teaching. In particular, teachers’ views suggest that the ANA has become a tool to evaluate teachers rather than measuring the value of educational processes. Hence the consequential outcome is that teaching and learning activities are geared towards fitting the formats of testing procedures. These findings resonate with existing concerns in the literature.
Keywords: Annual National Assessment; standardized testing; quality assurance; assessment