Reconceptualising assessment practices in South African schools: making an argument for critical action
On the surface the National Assessment Policy is transformative in nature because it promotes notions of shaping educational practice that will enhance the interests of learners in a meaningful way. It promotes ideas of transparency and a partnership between learners and educators that presupposes that learners are fully involved at every stage of their learning in decisions that affect their progress. This creates the impression that teaching and learning take place in a democratic environment where constant consultation and consensus are the order of the day. The policy ultimately envisages a kind of learner who would have the ability to participate as a critical citizen in society. Looked at from a critical perspective, this criteria-referenced outcomes framework seems to be a contradiction to transformative policy and practice. The predetermined criteria outlined in the policy seem to negate its intention of creating a schooling system through which critical citizens can emerge. The focus of this thesis, therefore, is firstly to make a critical analysis of assessment in OBE and its stated transformation objectives and, secondly, to reconceptualise assessment practices in South African schools by making an argument for critical action. This analysis will explore the issue of power relations in the classroom and their impact on participatory, deliberative and democratic classroom interaction as a condition imperative for a transformative OBE curriculum. This issue is pertinent and central not only to the improvement and promotion of teaching and learning, but also because of the profound implications it has for how we view educational transformation in South Africa.