Testing and Assessment in Context
Nowadays, we may find kind of testing and assessment in every daily life
aspect easily. Every kind of test has each purpose. Teachers and students are
probably being the most familiar people with the term “testing and assessment.”
The teachers also apply testing and assessment to motivate learners to study.
Language testing and assessment are a complex social phenomenon. They
have a number of function either it‟s in the classroom or in the society at large.
They are also “gate keeping” tools for further agendas.
Carol (1961: 314) states: “the purpose of language testing is always to
render information to aid in making intelligent decision about possible courses of
action.” Based on that statement, language testing always produces decision
differently and certainly should be made very specific for each intended use of a
Before we go further to clarify about text in context, let‟s see the meaning
of test from Oxford Advanced Learner‟s Dictionary. Test is an examination of
knowledge or ability, consisting of questions for them to answer or activities for
them to carry out. It means that test has so many purposes which lead to final goal
(advantage), but sometimes emerge unintended consequence (disadvantage).
Basically, a conventional testing activity starts from arriving at a prespecified place at the same time as others, sitting in a designated seat a regulation
distance from other seats, and then answering the same questions as other learners
in the same time period.
One of the largest test systems in the world is the National College Entrance
Test in China (The Gaokao). The out come is to determine which college or
university will be attended by the examinee then.
All colleges and universities in China set their own entrance score and allocate a
number of places to each province. Millions of students strive to pass that kind of
From the example above, it‟s obvious that the general purpose of test is to
provide equality and opportunity for the examinee. There should be no
discrimination or unfairness to any test taker.
According to Mill (1873; 257), there are three principles that place limits on
what can be done with test:
1. Relates to who makes tests, and thus to who is able to make judgments about
which knowledge is valued.
2. Relates to test content and what may not be tested.
3. Relates to test use and the kinds of decisions made about people on the basis of
A competitive test should not be controlled by the state or ministry of
education, but by an independent authority. The best Ministry of Education is that
which interferes least in the operation of the system (Cecil, 1971: 4). For Mill, the
role of a ministry was merely to provide the infrastructure for the system to operate.
In fact, the practice of a test can never be separated from political values. For
example, in our country Indonesia, as we know that the largest test for elementary,
junior and senior high school student is National Examination (Ujian Nasional).
The decision maker of National Examination is Ministry of Education through
Department of Education and Culture (DEPDIKBUD).
Other large scale test examples are SMPTN and CPNS examination which can
never be separated from political values.
As mentioned earlier, a test sometimes impacts some unintended
consequences, such as:
1. The fact that many students and teachers cease to study language, and start to
study the test.
2. The possibility of deteriorating health.
3. The phenomenon of „examinee migration‟
Having analyzed testing and assessment in context, I would like to give
some comments. First, test is very useful in general. It influences our daily life as I
have experienced as a teacher, the test‟s used to determine my students‟ progress in
learning either academic or psychology. It can also motivate my students to study
Second, the best system of a test in the world will be worthless if human
resources (examiner) are not truthful. It will cause the test‟s result bias and not
reliable. I‟d like to pick up an example of controvertible test in Indonesia; National
Examination was actually well prepared by our government through Department of
Education and Culture. But, in fact it was failed to prove as a competitive and ideal
test for elementary, junior and senior high school students. Some provinces in
Indonesia were delayed to execute National Examination. Many schools had got
wrong package of question for certain subjects. All of these problems seem
obvious; however the system itself is quite good. There can be no doubt that we
should save our students by renovating the human resources who are responsible
for National Examination.
Another example is CPNS examination. Many newspaper and news-online
site headlines reported about deceitful of CPNS test. Some of unqualified examinee
could pass the test easily by giving millions rupiah or have a close relationship with
certain bureaucracy. So, what‟s for that examination? It‟s all about human
resources again. Fortunately, our government has realized that crucial problem. The
next CPNS examination is going to be held by independent institution through
CAT (Computer Assisted Test) system instead of a conventional and controversy
In conclusion, language testing and assessment are a complex social
phenomenon. They have a number of function either it‟s in the classroom or in the
society at large. It‟s obvious that the general purpose of test is to provide equality
and opportunity for the examinee. There should be no discrimination or unfairness
to any test taker.
But sometimes in the implementation there will be many unintended
consequences toward the test result, and they must be minimized. It might be a
good idea to develop human resources‟ quality in order to provide a qualified test
for our students especially.
Caroll, J.B. (1961). Fundamental considerations in testing for English language
proficiency of foreign students. Reprinted in Allen, H.B. and Campbell,
R.N. 9eds) (1965). Teaching English as a Second Language: A book of
Readings. New York: McGraw Hill, 313-330.
Cecil, R. (1971). Education and Elitism in Nazi Germany. ICR Monograph Series
No. 5. London: Institute for Cultural Research.
Fulcher, G. (2010). Practical Language Testing. Great Britain: Hodder Education
Hornby, A.S. (2000). Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. New York:
.Oxford University Press
Mill, J.S. (1873). Autobiography. London: Longmans, Green, Reader and Dyer.