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High-Stakes Testing Should Not Be the Only Means of Certification

Not only are summative exams not the best way to motivate or assess student learning, but they are also challenging in conflict contexts because of the technical, logistical, and political issues that often complicate exam proctoring and participation. Talbot summarizes these issues well in his 2013 piece on education in conflict emergencies in the post-2015 era, as does Sesnan in a 2005 report, updated in 2015, on certification challenges in Sudan. These may include poorly resourced learning spaces, undertrained and stressed teachers and school administrators, ongoing active conflict, and the collateral effects of the conflict on their lives (e.g., loss of family members, greater income-generation challenges, and psychological and psychosocial trauma), which the research discloses impacts learning. Against this background, and with children in northern Syria being kidnapped while in transit to take exams (Banco 2014), high-stakes testing as the sole means of supporting certification is not a viable option there.

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