Book Review by Elyssa D. Durant, Ed.M.
Eckstein, M. A., & Noah, H. J. (1992). Examinations: Comparative and international studies. Oxford: Pergamon Press.
Chapters 8 and 9 by Philip J. Foster
In this chapter, Foster discusses the certainty of examinations as something which exists not as a social phenomenon independent of their place in education.
Like previous commentators, Foster also points out the discrepancy in the views educators hold regarding examinations: those who argue examinations are necessary to maintain educational standards; and those who believe such exaniinations undermine the mission and philosophy of American education.
Foster believes both of these views to be lacking a critical historical and social perspective necessary to understand the role and function oftesting in American society.
Foster believes his role as a sociologist is different than that an educator or a psychometrician, and bases his discussion "legitimacy" and "content".
Foster discusses the rapidly changing economy whereby Third World Countries are beginning to resemble their Western counterparts in the transformation from a subsistence economy to a monetary economy.
This is making social status structurally different by changing the social roles from ascribed to achievement based.
This new found social organization is heavily reliant upon academic achievement.
Foster states that in Third World Countries, examinations are far more determinant of social mobility and status than in Industrialized Nations. He goes on to state that despite the deleterious effect examinations have on pedagogical practice, they remam a better option than other methods of social mobility since they remain the only "universalistic" means of performance appraisal. He refers back to Heyneman & Ransom's paper which points out that public perception and opinion of evaluation measures are critical to effective policy implementation and reform.
In conclusion, Foster argues that examinations need not propel the rote perpetuation of a fixed body of knowledge, but can serve as a an instrument of cumcula change. He states that the Heyneman & Ransom proposed role of examination agencies may be a good one for financial reasons it may be an impossibility.
Foster suggests that an external world organization provides financial aid and personnel training to help subsidize educational testmg agencies whereby the investment could yield long-term gains.
Submitted for course credit in doctoral studies for the Advanced Seminar in Ed Policy and the Sociology of Evaluation. CRN TF6525. TC, Columbia University.
Elyssa D. Durant, Ed.M. © 1995-2013