Monday, June 09, 2014

How not to do something; or education should not involve misleading students

This image has been a prominent post on several Chinese social media sites for the last several days. I don't actually know if this really happened or not. What is disconcerting is that the education establishment in Hong Kong is screwy enough that something like this is believable.

Without looking at the corrected, second  image below can you answer this question in 20 seconds or less?

I understand the need for standards in education. I understand the desire of parents and schools for their children to receive a quality education. I also have, evidently unlike a lot of the principals or troglocrats in the EMB some training in pedagogy. The problem is that this is a logical reasoning and spacial location question where the picture is upside down. It isn't a counting problem but one which requires thinking skills beyond the level of most 5 year-olds.

When you turn the question over it makes sense as a question about counting

If you want to see if a 5 year-old child can count to 100 you don't ask question with the data upside down and backwards. It doesn't matter how much time they have to answer the question unless you are teaching children to read numbers that are backwards and upside down. This question was inappropriate because if you look at the research on brain development you'd know that children do not develop the ability to think abstractly until about age 11 - 13 so this question would be almost impossible for a 5 year-old to answer.  The area of the brain that thinks abstractly is not functioning yet in a child that young.  

I worked in Hong Kong schools for many years and was constantly frustrated with people setting test questions that looked like this.  They want to make sure that they get children that are intellectually gifted, or they think this sort of stuff shows how academically rigorous the curriculum is in that school. What it really shows is that they don't know what they are doing. The issue should be does the child have the basic skills needed for the grade level not can the test setter trick the children with with tricky questions beyond the child's' ability to comprehend.
Worse the question itself is dishonest.  To simply ask "What parking spot # is the car parked in?" implies that the information viewed is essentially correct and misleads students into not looking for problems in the presentation.  If this had appeared as a logical reasoning question in a test for an older child it might serve some value, assuming the question was rephrased to something like;  "There is a problem with the picture below. In order to identify the space the automobile is parked in you must first identify that problem. What is the problem and what is the number of the space the car is parked in?" For questions like this to have any meaning the person setting the test needs to inform the test taker that there is a problem with the question and that figuring out that problem is part of the answer.

Notice, I haven't even complained about the poor grammar in the question. It should have the word "number" spelled out and not use the "#" symbol. But that is a minor issue compared to the other things wrong with this question.

If this was really a question  on an entrance exam for a 1st grade place in a HK school then the person who set that test is little better than a pedophile because they are not testing the ability to count but simply torturing little kids for the fun of it. 

I hope that this is actually some sort of joke that didn't really happen.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The blogger with some training in pedagogy  

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Is 78 the answer?