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Decoding SAFAL’s Blueprint for Enhancing Learning and School Excellence 

By Pooja Nagpal

May 12, 2023

As per the guidelines laid down in the National Education Policy 2020, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) introduced SAFAL (Structured Assessment for Analyzing Learning Levels) - a competency-based assessment for grades 3, 5, and 8, marking a shift from conventional standardized tests to more comprehensive evaluations.

The adoption of competency-based assessments has become essential in enhancing student learning and achieving a profound understanding of students’ mastery in core curriculum areas. As per the guidelines laid down in the National Education Policy 2020, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) introduced SAFAL (Structured Assessment for Analyzing Learning Levels)-  a competency-based assessment for Grades 3, 5, and 8, marking a shift from conventional standardized tests to more comprehensive evaluations.

SAFAL’s competency-based assessment aims to measure students’ skills across vital curriculum areas such as Language, Mathematics, and Science. By gathering data on various background factors influencing learning, SAFAL is intended to provide teachers, school administrators, and parents with a well-rounded and detailed perspective of student learning progress.

Why is a competency-based assessment system required for Grades 3, 5 and 8?

The necessity for a competency-based assessment system for Grades 3, 5, and 8 arises from the fact that these grades are crucial transition points in a student’s academic journey. Evaluating competencies at these grades facilitates early intervention, enabling the identification of gaps in a student’s learning and ensuring students are adequately prepared for future grades and beyond. The goal is to shift from rote memorization to understanding and applying concepts, thereby preparing students for the complexities of the 21st century.

What is the Theory of Change (ToC) in the context of school-based assessments?

The Theory of Change for school-based assessments is a strategic blueprint that outlines the series of actions required to enhance student learning outcomes through assessments.

What is a theory of change for SAFAL and why do we need such a framework for it?

The ToC for SAFAL, in particular, focuses on transitioning from testing rote learning to assessing mastery of key competencies. By providing a clear and systematic framework, it illustrates how assessment findings can lead to improved student performance and school quality, and help shift towards adoption of competency-based assessments.

The ToC for SAFAL is important for several reasons. It helps stakeholders comprehend and communicate the causal relationships and processes through which change occurs, thereby fostering a shared understanding and commitment to the program’s objectives. Moreover, it serves as a roadmap for implementing, monitoring, and evaluating the impact of the SAFAL assessment, allowing for data-driven decision-making and continuous improvement.

What are some of the short and long-term outcomes that SAFAL is expected to achieve?

In the immediate term, SAFAL seeks to identify learning gaps, diagnose areas of improvement, and provide targeted support to students at vital transition points. It also helps shift the focus from rote learning to the mastery of key competencies, promoting a deeper understanding and application of concepts.

In the long run, SAFAL strives to improve overall learning outcomes and enhance teacher effectiveness by enabling educators to adjust their instruction based on assessment findings. Additionally, SAFAL aims to foster data-driven decision-making, inform education policies and resource allocation, and promote greater accountability, transparency, and trust in the education system.

What needs to happen for SAFAL to be successful in achieving its outcomes?

For SAFAL to successfully achieve its outcomes, several things need to happen. These include developing a competency-based assessment framework that aligns with key learning standards, collaborating with subject matter experts and stakeholders to design robust assessment items and tools, and ensuring adequate financial, human, and technological resources for administering the assessment with high fidelity and data reliability.

The SAFAL Assessment framework, developed by CBSE, incorporates NCERT Learning Outcomes and the UNESCO Global Proficiency Framework. This development process involved extensive consultations with both national and international agencies to ensure a comprehensive and effective approach.

CBSE created the SAFAL item bank by building the capacity of over 800 teachers for item development. This process resulted in more than 3,000 competency-based items, which underwent expert review to align them with global best practices and ensure their effectiveness in assessing student learning.

CBSE carried out thorough field trials and pilot tests for SAFAL using a digital assessment tool across 2,000 schools, involving around 150,000 students in 2022-23, to evaluate the assessment tools and implementation methods. 

In order to ensure the success of SAFAL, activities such as training administrators on implementing the SAFAL assessment across the designated grades, and analyzing and reporting the data to identify learning gaps are crucial. Also, it is important to provide timely feedback to teachers, schools, and policymakers on student performance and areas of improvement, and to continuously refine the assessment tools and methods based on feedback and evolving educational needs.

In conclusion, SAFAL’s competency-based assessment system, underpinned by a robust Theory of Change, has the potential to significantly enhance learning outcomes and school quality. By shifting the focus towards assessing competencies, SAFAL seeks to better prepare students for the challenges of the 21st century. It is an integral step towards creating a more resilient, transparent, and accountable education system, thereby improving the competitiveness of CBSE schools and students.


Foundational Learning

Authored by

Pooja Nagpal

Associate Director, CSF

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