Why We Need Examination Reforms in our Educational System?
Examination is a continuous and life long process of our educational system. It also occupies a central position in our educational system. From time to time, examinations in our educational system have come in for severe criticism. Since the India attained independence the question of changing pattern of examination along with changing the educational system in our country has been engaging the attention of the researchers, educationists, teachers as well as government. Unfortunately, the maxim happens to be misconceived and misinterpreted. It does not achieve the real objective of the curriculum. The majority of the students have come to look upon them as necessary evils-hurdles to be crossed by fair means or fouls. With increasing malpractices coming into vogue, examinations have actually become farcical in the character. Almost everybody feels convinced that, as conducted at present; they do not serve the purpose for which they are intended. A very convincing demonstration of this growing cynicism about university, college and school examinations is the increasing preference shown by employers for recruitment tests devised by themselves.
What is the purpose behind examinations?
They are means of assessing not only the academic standards attained by students but also of evaluating the quality of the teaching imparted to them. Instructions and assessment are two stages in the same process, and in any review, they have to be assigned equal importance. Examination Reforms cannot but be part of any scheme of educational reform as a whole. The main reason why many people tend assign more importance to examinations then may be legitimately due to them is the craze for degrees. But the overvaluation of the degree in the employment market for jobs requiring no specialized knowledge has without doubt done incalculable harm to our educational system as well a whole and turned examinations into a farce. It has confused our sense of priorities and created in many of us a tendency to look upon them as the central issue of education.
The quality of education cannot be improved till the teacher taught ratio is reduced to manageable proportions. Another factor that has played a important role undermining the quality the instruction in our schools and colleges is the increasing commercialization of education. As everywhere else, in this sphere also, professional pride has yielded place to the profit motive. Today if someone refers to teachers as nation builders, a large majority of them would take it as a joke. They know it very well that in a society in which it is mainly a person's materials worth that counts, the teacher is placed fairly down in the social scale.
Yet another disease that has overtaken our educational institutions and done great harm on the instructional side is the fact that academic life in our country has also been politicalized to deplorable extent. Today, politics on the campus is not confused to jockeying for positions carrying prestige and influence. It has also percolated down to levels where it has become a determinant of student-teacher relationships, and very often a deciding factor in inter-staff and inter-student rivalries. Such political alignments are reflected not only in frequent resort to agitations by students, but also very often influence the conduct of examinations in the form of licensed mass-copying, assaults on invigilators and other malpractices.
Coming to manner in which examinations are conducted in India, one cannot help feeling that the system is tyrannical in some respects. One long ordeal at the end of a year, gone through under severe psychological strain could hardly ever be a fair test of the knowledge and proficiency a candidate has acquired over a period of time. Moreover, the wide time-lag between the final tests induces among a majority of students a tendency to take it easy in the beginning, and to try to catch up on studies during the last two or three months only. Thus before even they have joined the active work force in the country, most of our young people lose the capacity for sustained effort, and that becomes a life-long habit which pulls them down in their careers.
Another serious defect from which the present system of examinations in India suffers is the practice of assessing the examinees' performance in terms of precise marking, which betrays a rather simplistic approach - the tendency to evaluate everything in arithmetical terms. Except in the case of exact science likes mathematics, this is certainly no way of grading scholarly performance. The method is highly arbitrary and invidious. With the weight of numbers increasing every year, there is every likelihood that the system will undergo further distortions with the passage of time.
Sometimes ago the Universities Grants Commission circulated to all universities in the country a report entitled "Examination Reform - A plan of action". The suggestions put forward in the report included introduction of the semester system, more emphasis being laid on internal assessment, development of question banks, a system of grading to replace the pass/fail system, new methods of setting question papers and conduct of examinations etc. There was hardly new about these ideas. They have been tried in several countries and many of them are in vogue today. Not all of them have been found to be fool-proof. Even the best of systems can lend itself to misuse if the will to improve is lacking. We must try to learn from the experience of the others and evolve a system which does not cause abrupt dislocation in the existing system, curbs the mad rush to instructions of higher learning, stimulates professional pride among teachers and introduces methods whereby the students are encouraged to put in sustained effort throughout the year and feel more involved in the in the process of learning for its own sake.
Why is Examination Reforms necessary?
There are many reasons of reforming examination. According to National Focus Group, I have recommended eight (8) possible reasons why Examination Reforms is necessary.
- There is need for functional and reliable system of school-based evaluation.
- There is often a lack of full disclosure and transparency in grading.
- While number of boards use good practices in pre-exam and exam management there remain several glaring shortfalls at several boards.
- The quality of question papers is low. They usually call for rote memorization and fail to test higher-order skills like reasoning and analysis, let alone lateral thinking, creativity and judgment.
- Indian School board exams are largely inappropriate for the 'knowledge society' of the 21st century and its need for innovative problem-solvers.
- They do not serve the needs of social Justice.
- They are inflexible. Based on a 'one-size-fits-all' principle, they make no allowance for different types of learners and learning environments.
- They include a an inordinate level of anxiety and stress, In addition to widespread trauma, mass media and psychological counselors report a growing number of exam-induced suicides and nervous breakdowns.
It should be clear from the above discussion that examinations in India need serious reforming as well as it should also be recognized that examination reforms has the potential to lead educational reform. In order to reform the examination system, the educational institutions need to consistency strive towards excellence and chalk out new strategies. This can be done by organizing workshops, training sessions, refresher courses and all above all by developing an advanced work culture. Reforming examinations alone will attain very little unless it is accompanied by other basic reforms, improvement of teacher training, teacher quality and teacher-student ratio. In addition, make the curriculum and textbooks more relevant and interesting and challenging. At secondary level, spending more on education will be vital. It has often been lamented that in Indian education the tail (assessment) has usually wagged the dog (of learning and teaching). The de-emphasizing exams will certainly liberate the learning and teaching process from its straitjacket. But in the educational system this pivotal position of exams can be used to leverage age advantage - to hasten reform within Indian education as whole.
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