The rationale for the introduction of standards in the United States in the late 1980s
was that the quality of education would improve. Assessment instruments in the
form of written tests were constructed in order to perform a monitoring function.
The introduction of standards and the associated monitoring have been replicated in
South Africa. It was intended that these elements would result in a more equitable
education across the country. In neither of these countries has this process borne the
results expected. The lack of substantive progress may be due to the fact that socioeconomic
disadvantage and, therefore, opportunity to learn, has not been addressed.
It may also be that systemic-type assessments have little meaning for the teachers,
and bear little relation to classroom assessments; the perceived lack of relevance
resulting in a lack of commitment to the process.
Our education system is in need of serious deliberations about the broad curriculum
goals relevant to society, a classroom environment that is conducive to learning
and an assessment model that supports instruction. Within the assessment model
we propose an instrument design that supports instruction. The assessment model
includes a monitoring component, a formative component and a professional
development component. We propose an assessment process where general trends
can be reported for systemic purposes but also that the results of the individual
learner progress obtained through both a monitoring and a formative component,
are to be suitable for engagement by teachers. We honour the central teacher role in
communicating both the emerging teaching successes and the currently troublesome
areas of classroom learning challenges.