As an academician I must have the moral courage to accept the responsibility for the failure of my students: As a teacher, if my student fails then this is the time for my own personal evaluation of what could I have done and what I did not do followed by intense reflection. As an academic administrator, failure of my students should have become an opportunity for me to investigate what was wrong with my academic policies and processes, what should have worked but did not:
- What remedial measures we could have taken but did not,
- what alternative methodologies we should have explored or adopted but did not,
- what curriculum changes we should have made but did not,
- how my teachers should have connected with the aspirations of students but did not,
- what new research in learning we should have explored and adopted but did not,
- what skills my teachers should have had but did not.
Original Intention of Assessment
Refusal to Accept the Quality Imperatives of Production
|School as Factory
Our schools are a product of industrial age and they typically use the assembly line factory model . The students are considered to be inputted in an assembly line organized in age based class rooms. All students, whether Tom, Dick and Harry as well as Einstein and Edison, they must all be fitted with a standardized curriculum and must pass through standardized tests during each year or stage of the factory production line till they are outputted. At which time the output quality control rejects the faulty products as failed. During the production process any student exhibiting creativity/intelligence to question the curriculum or teaching methodology or refusing to subscribe to irrational demands of the school is ejected on disciplinary grounds as a rejected waste or byproduct.
|Factory Model of School
The factory model in which rejects and failures were acceptable, has long been discarded by even the industrial producers. From statistical quality control (using devices such as Bell Curve) production management have long ago transited to TQM, zero defects output regimes and Six Sigma. A continuous and rigorous program of quality improvements has allowed the factories to achieve unbelievable level of outputs. Instead of one-size-fits-all type of standardization, they have moved to customization and configuration of their systems to meet the individual demands of customers. It is surprising to see that these quality models and customization models have not bee adopted by the schools that follow the factory model of mass production.
Please note that there are serious objections to the use of factory model in schools and I am not advocating it . Learning can not be equated with putting together of inanimate components to produce a physical product. Ideally, we should throwaway this model. However, schools that are still following and are insisting on following this model should then subscribe to the higher levels of production standards such as Six Sigma and per customer/student customization (child-centered education).
Bell Curve Assumption to justify not improving the system
Using the bell curve assumption, the system shrugs off its responsibility by saying that it is the natural distribution and not their policies, procedures or methodologies that are responsible for the failures. Hence, we are using essentially the same policies, procedures and methodologies in our schools and universities that were in vogue fifty years ago. By hiding behind this assumption, we refuse to accept the responsibility for improving our system of education by conveniently ignoring the tons of research literature and experiences of alternative methodologies that are vociferously advocating the changes that need to be made but were never made (see references below). No wonder the results are no different from what they were 50 years ago.
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results ! 
Faulty Design of Assessment: Biased criteria
|Faulty Assumption behind testing
Students are typically failing on assessments that are designed by people who have no training in the design of assessments. The assessments are typically favorable to a particular type of students and are loaded against other types of students. All students are expected to have the same type of intelligence on the same subject at the same date at the same instant of their lives. Hence, the issue of failure of students is a failure of the assessment system. Our assessments routinely fails to discriminate the students on the basis of their unique intelligences and accomplishments; Our assessment assumes that everyone is at the same level of social intelligence, same level of emotional intelligence, same level of spatial and mathematical intelligence, same level of verbal intelligence, same level of mathematical intelligence, same same level of rhythmic intelligence, same level of natural intelligence, same level of physical intelligence, …
We therefore expect the monkey, crow, penguin, elephant, fish, seal and dog to be assessed similarly on their skill to climb a tree!!  This example illustrates that typically our academics are either not aware of the work of Howard Gardner (multiple intelligences)  and other researchers on different learning styles, or are unable to implement these theories in practice.
The result is that the blame is shifted to the students.
Subjectivity Masquerading as Objectivity
|Untrained Assessors, paper setters and academics
From Teaching to Learning
Is Failure a Crime?
|By Paulo Coelho, author of Alchemist
The moment we transit from teaching to learning, we begin to understand the importance of experience which is another name for trial and error. As famously quoted by Randy Pausch, “Experience is what we get when we don’t get what we want.” The strive for success requires that we should be willing to make mistakes and learn from them. Fear of failure and mistakes would stifle our initiative and would throttle our ambitions.
In learning based educational systems, “failure” is not something to be abhorred and to be afraid of. Failure is a stepping stone for the future success. The capacity to be nurtured in students is their ability not to be discouraged and not to lose hope in the face of failures. Students need to be taught application and commitment, which means, to keep on trying till success is at hand. In practical life the strive for excellence is achieved through continuous improvements and negotiating innumerable setbacks encountered on the path to success. Failure is not something to be afraid of, but an experience to reflect upon, to reorganize and to construct the next stage of effort.
Carrot and Stick Assumption of Behavioral Control
|Skinner: A child is a clean slate, an empty glass
Chomsky: A child has a pre-installed thinking/creative ability.
Intrinsic Motivation vs Extrinsic Motivation
Heads I win, Tails you lose! Ownership Issue
 Creative Schools review – we need to call time on exam-factory education; The Guardian. Book Review of Creative Schools by Sir Ken Robinson
 Source unknown for Judging a fish on its ability to climb… by Quote Investigator
 Theorgy of Multiple Intelligences by Howard Gardner
 From Degrading to De-Grading by Alfie Kohn
 “Child Driven Education” and “Kids Can Teach Themselves”; Ted Talks resulting from the fascinating “Hole in the Wall” experiment by Sugata Mitra
 “Insult to Intelligence: Bureaucratic Invasion of Classroom” by Frank Smith
 Pursuit of Excellence vs Guzara: How to teach excellence through everyday examples
- How to define success of a school or a student
- Why Education and Why Higher Education: Leadership in Life and Society
- Testing/Grading vs Motivation: A Variation on Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle for Academics
- Iqbal’s view on What is Meant to be Educated
- Curriculum’s Relevance to Social Impact: Why do our graduates want to leave the country?
- Learning Problems: Top 9 Questions to Answer Before You Run for Help
- Education as Tazkia: Is a child like a clean slate?
- Bell-curve assumption about the distribution of intelligence of students
- Pursuit of Excellence vs Guzara: How to teach excellence through everyday examples
- Charter of Children’s Recognition
- How Maths is Made More Difficult
- Fairness in Grading: A Lesson by the Great Dijkstra
- Beauty is our Business: Dijkstra and Mathematics
- Holistic Learning and Whole Life Orientation
- Why PhD is Difficult to Complete and Why there are so many ABDs (All But Dissertation) and PhD dropouts.