Assessing Diversity

Albert Einstein said “Everyone is genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”  I believe animals have unique and specific capabilities that are not identical. Animals develop their ‘talents’ which are needed to survive based on their own environmental context. We should not give a bad grade for monkey for ‘swimming lesson’ since it lives in jungle and trees. If animals biologically are very unique, then human are more super unique.

People tend to say, “Yes, human are unique but we have identical characteristics since we are the same species biologically. So, we could be standardized by certain attributes.”  I argue that we might be same species who have similar characteristics and standard yet we still have unique differences in our gifts and talents based on several factors such as environment , education, and culture.  Therefore, we need to rethink how assessment in our education systems have been standardized our unique students with false standard measurement that might even affect our students believe he is stupid.

Talking about my context, I live in Indonesia which has been judged recently has the happiest students and the lowest score in Math and Sciences Test based on PISA Assessment 2013. This result has embarrassed our national standardized test system which has nearly 99% high school graduates passing every year.  We have frequent and many high stake standardized tests in grade 6, 9, 12.  The money spent to take additional course, paper tests, and preparation class has been questioned whether it’s effectively improve our education quality. Our government wants to pursue the world standard such as PISA throughout national standardized tests. However, they fail.

Many education organization and social communities in Indonesia has rejected the high stake assessment that causes stress of many students and teachers in Indonesia. Students and teachers are seemed to be forced to learn certain skills for the sake of test score. They are forced to master several subjects that might not be relevant at all. Due to this national standard test, our teaching and curriculum has been  focused on how students do well in the tests. If we are back to the Albert Einstein quote in the opening of this article, I am afraid that our country has judge our students using false standard that has made our students live its whole life believing that they’re stupid.

Indonesia has very diverse cultures, languages, and ethics. We have thousand unique thousand heritage and natural resources from Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and Papua. Each student live in different island, city, and village has unique talents and gifts based on their cultural context. I think it is totally wrong that our students from Sumatra to Papua are assessed with the same standardized test.

Definitely, some region will have consistent success and failure in doing that because each region has its own potential. I propose we need to stop standardized our students as we standardized machine or stuff. Stop following PISA standard and forcing other students to achieve good score in PISA standard. Why should we? Our diverse students are more than that. They are designed specifically with their unique gifts which are shaped by their local environment.  I believe this has wrongly affects our students that if they are stupid in Math and Science then they are stupid for the whole life. In fact, we believe Math and Science is not the only way of assessing our students capabilities.

Therefore, after stopping national standardized test, we should rethink the best suited assessment for our countries.  We could not just copy for other countries standard because of their success implementation. We should design assessment that reflects our local richness of our students. I would like to propose one assessment strategies that could be used in our diverse country: Research portfolio. Our country has lack of research culture reputation. We are often drilled with many different tests without really know what actually we have in our country. Using research portfolio assessment, I want every graduates start from elementary, middle, and high school students in many islands in Indonesia explore their unique potential in their cultural and environmental context and do specific and useful research. This research portfolio could also be designed locally by each school according to their context.  Our national government need provide strong and consistent teacher’s training, coaching, and support in doing local research. The government gives the general requirement and rubrics to assess the quality of research that are assessed by teachers in the school. Student research portfolio will help students to develop their local potential and capabilities based on student interests.


Finally, I have tried to apply this idea in very simple way in my entrepreneurship class. By allowing students to design a research paper. I have deleted test in my class and I judge their quality of research what they like. Using specific rubric and frequent and consistent feedback,  I assess my students how they could manage to develop their talents and gifts. It might not be easy and it definitely add some work yet it It’s more contextual for our diverse countries than doing standardized tests. At the end, it would provide strong ‘standard’ for our diverse students to research their interest based on local needs. This is the standard that we need for our diverse country.

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