In 2009, the Singapore Primary Education Review and Implementation Committee (PERI) made recommendations to realise a more holistic approach to primary education. A key recommendation of this was to use holistic assessment to support student learning and development, to build their confidence and desire to learn, and to better prepare them for the future. From this, the PERI Holistic Assessment (HA) project was born.
Holistic assessment refers to the process of using multiple sources to continually gather information on a child’s development, to provide feedback to support and guide learning. HA focuses on achieving quality, balance and child-centricity in school assessment systems, to support decision-making and increase student motivation and success in learning. Teachers use assessment information formatively, to adjust instruction and provide students with feedback and targeted practice to move learning forward. Students clarify learning intentions, assess themselves and one another, set goals for improvement, and track and communicate their progress.
To support school implementation, the Ministry of Education (MoE) formed a PERI-HA Project Team. PERI-HA was implemented in stages, commencing with prototyping in 16 schools in 2010, and extending the project to all primary schools by 2013. There are four key strategies to implementing HA: (1) developing a systemic implementation approach and plan; (2) building school leaders’ and teachers’ capacity; (3) providing resource support; and (4) engaging stakeholders’ support.
Schools adopt Child-Centric Holistic Reporting Systems (comprising a Holistic Report Card, Pupil Progress Report and Development Portfolio) to give parents a fuller picture of their child’s holistic development. This enables greater student involvement in communicating their learning (e.g., through Parent–Child–Teacher Conferencing) and helps develop confident learners. Students share with their parents and teachers what they have learnt, their reflections and goals, and how they can be supported.
To improve teachers’ and school leaders’ competency, the project is supported by a Capacity Building Framework and an online HA portal. Teachers and school leaders engage through seminars, workshops, inter-school networks, teacher-learning communities, and peer lesson observation and feedback. The HA portal provides ongoing support through access to digital resources and tools, and as a platform for sharing ideas and experiences. The online portal offers a cost-effective and efficient approach to the dissemination of resources and knowledge across 190 schools.
Impact and effect
All 190 primary schools in Singapore have begun implementation of HA. Project progress has been reported annually in the Formative Evaluation, as well as through several other internal and external sources. Since the full rollout of the project in 2011, primary schools have ranked HA as one of the most beneficial MoE initiatives for the past four years running. Despite some early reservations, feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, noting the positive impact of HA practices in supporting student learning and development, and increasing teacher confidence in delivering quality classroom assessment. Students report finding learning more enjoyable, with increased confidence and motivation to learn. They are more aware of their strengths and areas for improvement, and are given greater opportunity to communicate their needs and set goals for their learning. Many teachers have also reported that students are more engaged during lessons, are actively participating in class and taking greater ownership of their learning. Regular feedback similarly allows parents to actively engage and better support their child’s learning and development.
All schools are supported with self-evaluation tools/resources to enable them to review their assessment systems yearly, and refine their assessment processes and practices to ensure sustainability. Beyond the start-up capacity-building and resource-support costs, there is very little additional cost for sustaining HA implementation annually. Many resources are co-developed by teachers and MoE, and are freely accessible to all schools on the PERI-HA website. Each year, schools support one another by hosting PERI-HA learning journeys and sharing good practices with other schools.
HA is embedded in the ‘Singapore Primary School Curriculum for Well-rounded Learning’ and will support all new syllabuses. MoE is planning to further scale-up HA implementation by enhancing teacher assessment capability, and raising the quality of assessment in tandem with pedagogy and curriculum changes. Plans are also underway to implement HA practices across secondary schools.
The project’s success has also received international recognition, with numerous overseas education delegates expressing interest in adapting HA practices within their education systems.