Are Examinations the best way to evaluate students ?

Socrates once said, “An unexamined life is not worth living”

The examination system has been used for a long time. But has always been debatable whether it is really a good way to judge a student’s degree in education?

There must be something to segregate the wheat from the chaff.

Can one imagine if there were no examinations how difficult it would have been to employ or judge a certain person’s abilities and qualifications? How could a company employ employees if there was no measurement to determine the level of intelligence?

The score cards, the grades and the degrees play an important role in forming or destroying ones career especially in the service industry. But what about the language subjects? Is it possible to judge a person’s language ability through examinations? Today most companies look for communication skills and fluency in English. In the exam a student might fare well in the written, but when it comes to spoken language he/she is not able to express himself very well, thus loses the opportunity, as Language is the international passport today.

But most of the time, the scoring system is a mandatory tool used for recognizing a student’s ability. Where there is measurement, there are results. Result needed for judgment and evaluation towards a purpose. If student is the purpose for being tested, its usually associated with knowledge, skills, eligibility and behaviors that one can achieve. This is its general purpose. But examining a student should not be the only way to judge a student.

An examination is a memory test only. How much one has been able to memorize in a given time than how much he has been able to understand through the academic year is what is tested in the examination. But if that is the yardstick to one’s intelligence, then I am afraid a person who can mug up the whole book has an advantage over a practical and intelligent person who thinks logically and acts according to the given situation. But the mugger can also be at a disadvantage because he might get some question which he has not mugged up, then he is at a loss, and he is not creative enough to write on his own, so he flunks in the examinations. If they are lucky to conjecture the right questions, then they get better result. It is a convenient system for the teachers but definitely not for the students in the long run. Some students are under a lot of stress when they take the exams and are not able to give in their best, in spite of having the ability to perform better.

Passing the exams with flying colours does not often guarantee a wonderful career but proves ones worthiness through the confidence, one gains in the process. It is not really the level of knowledge, theory or practical understanding that is tested. It is the proceeding value that is underlying.

If gold is measured in carat value; then there must be something to measure intelligence, even though it’s not the most perfect measure, even though a widely accepted one. Though examination seems to be the only reason why people study these days, to achieve high grades, and thus get a respectable position in the corporate world or establish their present and pave way for the future, the question is whether examinations are the only way for evaluation? If not then what could be a substitute or an addition to it, is a matter of concern.

Philosophers like Socrates found knowledge interesting that is why they examined things but these days examination has lead to a great dislike to education, the end is important, the means immaterial! Education is a way of enlightening people and making them aware of the world they live in and to help them voice their opinion on important issues in life later.

When this is the aim of being educated, is the examination essential?

Well! This needs lots of brain storming sessions and the changes have to be made in the top rung, that is the education system. So that the demands of the service sectors can be met with equal number of people graduating out skillfully to meet the demands! A demand and a supply equation.

There could be a comprehensive and continuation evaluation of the student through out the academic session. This has been proposed by the CBSE,{Central Board of Secondary education} which would enable the right qualities of a child to be brought to limelight and honed in the right direction thus preparing him to be a better skilled person. Exams should be the exact reflection of what the students have learnt. Nevertheless we all know that the exams as “the only” instrument to evaluation, doesn’t always give the exact picture of a child’s ability. Many a times the resulting grade is usually disappointing and the poor result is not necessarily from the student’s lack of knowledge about the subject but rather from personal circumstances, stress, nervous, health problems, etc. hence his state of mind, resulting in the performance, good or bad!.

When a teacher knows his students well and observes their progress through the academic year, checks their work on a day to day basis, with weekly and monthly assignments and projects, he or she would have a precise and a clear idea about the ability and the performance of the child even before he appears for the examination

If the outcome of the examination is not as per the standard and expectation of the child and the teacher, the child will be at an advantage if circumstances of the student’s environment at home and at class are analysed. Although this is a Herculean task for the teacher and calls for immense patience, yet it is worth the effort, because it helps a young life in the long run and gives satisfaction to the teacher to have been able to do justice to the student.

An efficient and a capable teacher must use every resource within his/her reach to evaluate a child in a continuous and comprehensive manner. Tests, reports, assignments, worksheets, short plays, role plays, etc , are various ways to grade students’ ability and efficiency.

Every new change has obstacles and it will not be an overnight change, although it will be a welcome change in the long run. This would be a silver lining to a child’s education because when a student will pass out of the school, he will be armed with the hard and soft skills as well. Though this cannot be the only way of testing students, this could be certainly an additional tool to the existing examination pattern.

However, not all the exams are the same, some kind of exams are more fair (or just) and their grade more objective than others. The “multiple choice tests” in which one must choose one of the four or five possible answers can be used to evaluate facts, dates, usually very concrete knowledge and in some cases the student can even guess the answer. On the other hand, essay type questions can be tested in written so that the students can express their depth of understanding of a particular subject, where synthesizing and formulating a critical opinion, based of the class room discussions is imperative, as it includes a learning process than the solving process or memorizing concrete facts and reproducing them in the written format.

A preference to one kind of exam doesn’t rule out the value of the other. Both should be complementary to each other as the purpose of both is to measure general educational development and improvement in the student. A wise teacher and an efficient system should implement and practice a continuous and comprehensive evaluation and every teacher must know that “What we test is what we teach or what we teach is what we test”. A student should never be tested on what he is not taught.

But it’s a complete different scenario when the student is analysed only on the basis of the exams and his competitiveness at the university level, for grants or for scholarships. In all these situations it’s not a test of knowledge but a test of scores and qualifying for that particular purpose. Here the understanding between the examinee and examiner is not crucial or viable, but a demonstration through an objective aptitude test is the means to achieve the grades. If the test is well designed and the grading system well adapted, the exam would be just and the calibre of the student well displayed.

When it’s the question of the supply and demand ratio to the job market, it is evident that employers and community groups need validation and certificates. The worth of the candidate is analysed on the basis of the certificates he holds and the grades he secures during the learning process. This is the only authentic way to judge the candidature of a candidate. Sadly, even the certificates can be procured today, by unfair means.

To come to any sort of conclusion it would need many brain storming sessions and changes will have to be made in the education system itself and of course the service industry, because all said an done the education a person acquires caters to the need of the industry, and vice versa. Every new change has teething problems and obstacles and definitely it will not be an overnight change, though it will be a welcome change in the long run. This would be a silver lining to a child’s education because when a student passes out of the school he would be not only be BOOK WISE but also armed with the hard and the soft skills, which he will acquire through the various activities of the continuance comprehensive evaluation, not through written exams.

Finally, all said and done, it’s the basic education system, the need of a uniform pattern of education, irrespective whether it’s a public school or a private one and last but not the least the demands of the service industries, which have to undergo a massive change, if the testing of the students through the examination has to change. After all, the result, the grades and percentage is the name of the game. Higher the grades / percentages, higher the chances of getting jobs or getting qualified for further studies, irrespective of whether the student was a product of a public school or a private school. If this changes, the change in the system will be a welcome change as it will bring out the best of the student in a natural process of learning and not through the stressful and strenuous trodden routine of the examination.


By : Mrs. Anju Prasad

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