The Role of Formative Assessment in Global Human Resource Development

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Paul Wicking, Nagoya University

Over the last few years, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) has been advocating the development of guroubaru-jinzai [global human resources]. These global human resources are to be top global performers who are intellectually savvy and internationally minded young men and women able to communicate across cultural divides and promote Japanese interests on the world stage. The success or failure of this policy will in no small part be determined by how well the various components of the educational system are aligned towards the goal. In particular, the ways in which assessment is conceptualized and practiced is vitally important. The continuation of a testing and examination system that consistently rewards memorization and repetition of learned facts will stifle the independence, creativity, and collaboration skills that MEXT hopes to develop. Rather, the development of these skills is best facilitated through formative assessment processes, which have until now been lacking within secondary and higher education in Japan. Instead there has been an inordinate focus on summative assessment and high stakes testing within the education system. In this paper I argue for the importance of formative assessment in shaping learners into the top global performers desired by MEXT and suggest some steps to be taken towards a contextually-based formative assessment practice.