the nikku

reflecting on ESL/EFL and its relation to faith

Monday, February 16, 2009

The numbers are (most) important

Today we checked the entrance test. The multiple choice was read by a computer, but of course we had to check the written part by hand. With eight teachers this took about an hour and a half.

We spent the first ten minutes debating how many points we would take off for misspellings, misordered sentences, and wrong verb conjugations, etc. Our choices seemed a little strict to me this year.

I said we should form a policy about what we will and won't accept on the entrance test so that we don't have to debate every year.

As it turns out, the averages from the multiple choice section were "too high". So we were especially strict on the short answer section to drive the scores down. This looks unethical to me. Shouldn't students get a fair chance?

Especially at a school where we accept all students - except for maybe the bottom five - especially at a school where students already feel like they are at the bottom of the bucket, we should at least give them a chance to get a decent score and feel good about themselves.

(Entrance tests are one of the many parts of life in Japan that lead people to a feeling of hopelessness. I don't know why we do it at all.)

I say, the students are most important. More than their grades, or their uniforms, they should at least feel encouraged and enabled instead of shot down and nagged all the time.

EDIT: after 2 hour meeting to double check the pass/fail results with EVERYONE. I learned that 60% is an ideal average for each section (English, math, etc.) of the test. This separates the outstanding students from the ok and just average ones.

We used to have a standard of 150 points (out of 500) or more to get into Seiai. However, our standards are a little lower these days.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lowering standards lowers the teachers' expectations of their students, both current and oncoming. It's no surprise to me personally that Seiai is academically going down and that students feel hopeless. The meetings you describe come across as more utilitarian and numerical rather than concern for improving the intellectual abilities and cultivation of students' talents. Correct me if I'm wrong on that!

I feel that students will improve if they truly believe that you really care about them succeeding, give them high expections while at the same time communicating that you know that they can achieve them, respect their decisions (both good and bad), let them know you're never too busy for them, and support them without being unbearable.

Also, comparing a school to another school reminds me of the parable of the master who gave his stewards the talents. One gets five, one gets two, and the last one gets one. The five-talent steward and the two-talent steward focused on what their master gave them to double, and I believe that they succeeded because they weren't whining about how someone else had more talents. And when the master gave an account of the five- and two-talent stewards, they both received the same exact praise. The number "five" and "two" was irrelevant to the master. What was relevant was that they were faithful to what the master had given them.

I know what competition is like, having worked in a competing eikaiwa among MANY in Japan. But Mrs. Ogawa gave me some great advice once: focus on serving your students, and don't worry about what your superiors say.


2/20/2009 2:10 AM  

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