“Standardisation broke education.” Relational evaluation will fix it

Standardisation is the culprit of our education’s brokenness. This well-known diagnosis of our educational system came from Sir Ken Robinson who passed away in August 2020. He inspired educators from around the globe with his TED Talk that examined why our current approaches to education and schooling inhibit children’s creativity. He suggested that current education, due to its being standardisation-based and exams-focused, tend to breed competitiveness, and champion individual ‘success’. Hence there is no space for exploration nor imagination.

In our book Beyond the Tyranny of Testing, we point out that the culture of testing and grading is tyranny because it enslaves educators and learners in the production of scores. The system deliberately chains all stakeholders to the cycle of dehumanisation to a breaking point where at the present moment, students and educators’ ill-being becomes a hidden pandemic alongside Covid-19.

Agreeing with Sir Ken Robinson, we propose that the only way to ‘cure’ this educational plague is by reconceptualising evaluation from a relational perspective. As we argue, it is within relational process that learning can be meaningful, and each of us become who we are. When we place the relational at the heart of teaching and learning and all other relevant experiences, education can be truly transformative. Where schools encourage the relational flow, there will be endless dialogue, myriad forms of collaboration, appreciative listening, mutual recognition of our humanness, and precious friendship over and above our identity labels, and designated roles.

When the relational orientation underpins education evaluation, it not only serves to enhance the depths of learning engagement, inspire continued interests in learning, and above all, enrich the relational process itself. As many classroom practices illustrate, relational evaluation is a co-inquiry where learners, educators and others in the community value each other’s presence and the meaningfulness of learning activities.

As Sir Ken Robinson envisaged, this is a truly a great way to fix our education’s brokenness.

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