Why Our Examination System Needs A Quick Rethink?

by Ruqiya Jabeen

Independent thinking is least developed through our current examination system. Instead, it puts a premium on rote learning. More memory power fetches you good grades and accolades from society.

Students writing their examination in Kashmir

‘Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach’ is a famous line from George Bernard Shaw’s 1905 stage play Man and Superman. But, this line raises more questions than it answers.

Is teaching the last resort of those who fail to make a mark in life? Does teaching come at the lowest rung of competence and proficiency? Do people take this profession by chance and not by choice? Do educators fail to hone and harness the human resources they are tasked to engineer and eventually fail to effect any sustainable change in the structure and functions of society? Does the white matter of their brain outweigh their grey matter? To cap it all, do they fail to appraise and evaluate the learners? All these questions stare us in the face and demand answers.

The examination is an inalienable, inseparable and intrinsic constituent of the teaching-learning process. Without examination, the whole process becomes a wasteful exercise. Examination keeps the teaching-learning process on track and makes it purposeful, goal-directed and result-oriented. The aims and objectives of education can only be achieved through a robust examination system. This, in turn, would affect change in society by ensuring optimum development of human resources, the most precious resource on this planet.

Reality Check

Is our examination system serving the purpose it was crafted for? Is our examination system delivering the services to society to develop human capital? Is our examination system helping us in realizing the goals of education? The answer is a big ‘No’.

We don’t need to be naysayers to accept this big ‘No’. Being a realist doesn’t mean being defeatist.

There is no palpable positive change in society because our examination system is critically ailing and the ailment eating into the vitals of our education system is not difficult to diagnose. On a macro level, the ailment is the cumulative effect of the following factors, which have rendered the examination system quite atrophied to bring about a real change in society:

Test items sans objectivity, validity and reliability;
Arbitrary and whimsical arrangement of test items;
Minimal use of probing questions or brain-teasers;
Too much emphasis on ‘Memorization’ and least focus on ‘Understanding’ and ‘Application’ of concepts;
Stifling creativity by asking close-ended questions;
Putting a premium on bookish knowledge and sidestepping the practical part of it;
Neglecting co-curricular part of the curriculum by putting too much emphasis on the curricular aspect only;
Faulty and redundant methods of measurement and evaluation;
Employing outdated and obsolete appraisal services;
A dearth of standardized and scientific scales of measurement;
Lack of will, purpose and professionalism on the part of examiners;
Non-seriousness, low motivation and casual approach on the part of examinees;

A policeman helps a student to cross a concertina barricade to reach her examination centre in Srinagar in November 2019. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

Moreover, the examination is not conducted in a fair and transparent manner. Cramping a large number of students in not-so-capacious examination halls kills the very purpose of examination as the examinees resort to unfair means to pass their examination by hook or by crook. How will you assess the examinees when the majority of them have resorted to cheating?

Creativity and ingenuity – the soul of science education- are the first casualties of our current examination system. Close-ended questions not only stifle creativity but also impede the proper development of the cognitive faculties of the learner. Though convergent thinking is positively correlated with intelligence but development of higher-order learning like creativity and problem-solving ability is possible only through divergent thinking which can be stimulated by asking open-ended questions.

Independent thinking is least developed through our current examination system. Instead, it puts a premium on rote learning. More memory power fetches you good grades and accolades from society. But, once the examination is over, the memorized things evaporate from your mind like ether in a petri dish. The current way of examining the students is akin to watering the leaves and scything the roots. Instead of preparing them for life, we make their lives miserable by consistently subjecting them to exams, which are ill-conceived, ill-planned and ill-executed.

Kashmir students appearing for board exams in November 2018

The American System

The USA is a highly educated country known for its values the world over. The education system of the USA is unparalleled for a variety of reasons. Their focus on independent thinking, development of creativity and ingenuity and problem-solving approach puts them at a higher pedestal vis-a-vis educational theory and practice. The staggering number of inventions they have made and the impressive number of Nobel Prizes they have won is the result of their education system and the appraisal services they have in place to bring out the best in the student.
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed us a plethora of challenges-social, economic and educational, etc. During the lockdowns, the classes were conducted in virtual mode. Even the assessment of students was done through digital space.

Leveraging technology to teach and examine the students online is the need of the hour and the only viable media in the present crisis precipitated by the unabated onslaught of COVID-19.

A Failed System

Ruqiya Jabeen

The existing examination system has failed us in the true sense of the term. If we could fix this important part of the teaching-learning process, we would be able to infuse new lease of life into the teaching-learning process and make it consonant with the emerging challenges and changing needs of the 21st century. We have to do away with the traditional and redundant methods of measurement and evaluation to properly tap the bubbling energy of the exuberant young souls.

Let’s comprehensively examine and evaluate the learners in a systematic, scientific and objective manner by touching all aspects of his persona-physical, intellectual, social and emotional. Let’s make exams joyous and soothing for the frayed nerves of the educand. Let’s examine exams before we use them to examine the students, both offline and online.

(The author teaches at the Government Higher Secondary School, Koil, Pulwama. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Kashmir Life.)

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