Macmillan Education, one of the world’s leading publishers of English Language teaching and school curriculum materials, has launched ICAS programme for the Indian subcontinent. The ICAS program, will evaluate students across a wide spectrum of skills, giving parents and teachers a deep insight into the true capability of children. Director of MacMillan India, Yash Mehta, talks to Guardian20.
Q. ICAS, a skill-based assessment test, is first of its kind initiative in Indian schools that intends to evaluate students on the parameters of skill and understanding, and intends to break through the traditional markers of evaluation based on rote learning. How would the tool achieve that?
A. Unlike traditional evaluation markers, ICAS does not assess how well students remember the content they have been taught; it assesses the higher order thinking and problem-solving skills needed for success in English, Mathematics, Science and Digital Technologies. ICAS does not test knowledge of subjects although the questions may assume some knowledge appropriate to the students’ age. All the information that the students need to respond to the question, is provided in the stimulus. The good news is that no test preparation is required before taking ICAS.
For instance in English – Students are required to locate, identify, interpret, infer and synthesise information in and about texts.
Q. The Indian education system is often the subject of debate over outdated curriculum and rote learning amongst other things. In that regard, how productive could this tool be for schools here, considering the market base for diagnostic tools that haven’t been that great a hit in India?
A. ICAS is a pen and paper test considering a vast majority of our students are still using this mode and answering is on OMR sheets. We are approaching state governments too so that we can broad base ICAS. In the future we will make ICAS available online too.
Q. ICAS has been adopted in 14,500 schools in over 20 countries. What have been the results like if you assess students’ performance on their skill and aptitude?
A. There are 3 types of reports for students who show distinct improvement in performance when they use remedial measures based on ICAS results. Development of students over time – from class 3 to 10 – shows moderate increase. Students who use these reports show distinct improvement over those who do not.
Comparative subject performance – your English/Math/Science development – students are able to identify learning gaps.
Question wise analysis – students are able to target specific skill areas which they bridge through remediation.
“The Indian education system is huge and improvements are taking place in infrastructure, lots is still to be done, particularly in the government sector. Major challenges are: lack of access to learning resources, mixed ability classrooms, and teacher capability.”
Q. How many schools does Macmillan plan to introduce ICAS in? How are you planning its expansion in India?
A. Macmillan aims to introduce ICAS, a comprehensive educational assessment programme, to over 5000 schools and half a million students over the next 2 years in the Indian subcontinent.
Q. How have other interactive and self-learning tools like Mindspark, Asset and XSEED panned out? What is their adoption and success rate?
A. They have been successful in niche segments. ICAS is a global assessment like PISA with proven validity and reliability and will see greater acceptance.
Q. What are the challenges, according to you, that the India education system faces?
A. The Indian education system is huge and improvements are taking place in infrastructure, lots is still to be done, particularly in the government sector. Major challenges are: lack of access to learning resources, mixed ability classrooms, teacher capability which we need to strengthen to keep abreast of education technology and improve outcomes.
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