Friday, 6 March 2015

Examination System: Let's Probe it!

It is a flood that comes annually, destroys generations and cripples minds
There is a flood that comes once in a century, destroys properties. But there is a flood that comes annually, destroys generations and cripples minds. And it is on a mass scale. And we are all its victims. And we don’t talk about it. It has claimed innumerable lives, destroyed creative spark in countless students. It costs us money, time, human resource and other resources. I mean Examination System prevailing here which needs examining, a thorough post-mortem. A preliminary post-mortem report follows. Detailed reports from different labs (intellectual, moral, social, psychological, political, religious) will hopefully follow in future.

The body is giving offensive smell. One can’t imagine how it functioned in its great days. Once upon a time there was instituted a system for preparing students for mastering crafts and skills they had shown promise by virtue of natural inclination, heredity etc. Students were properly initiated or baptized in the craft or profession they chose. Education was fully vocational and it simultaneously fashioned souls. Vocation was life’s wazeefa, worship. Skills, ethics, love for vocations were “tested.” Modernity uprooted hereditary, inclinational or traditional mode of education. And no wonder it results in abortions at mass scale. Somehow many get to the post primary level and then nature does her weaning at matriculation. More than 80% students feel compelled to pursue post-matric education and drop out percentage starts increasing with every next step in higher education. Meanwhile childhood and youth of countless millions has been destroyed and they have hardly learnt anything of significance or anything besides ability to read and write some preliminary things. Souls haven’t been fashioned. Anyway even those who complete PhDs don’t learn anything about the vocation of life. Meaning of life – which is the most important question education had to help sort – and ethics – which is the essence of philosophy and spirituality and part of religion – have not been in the syllabus. In fact these things are taught through education rather than by education in traditional cultures and that is why the talk about teaching values by including books on moral education has so little value really. What values can you teach? Values are imbibed from culture, through the vocation or craft. One’s job is ideally one’s dharma. Less than 1% people are not alienated from their jobs or blessed with the vocation that they have really chosen. That is why holidays, strikes are welcome always for working class. There is a universal baegaer (forced unpaid labour) in schools going on. Who says Maharaja is gone?

Now an artificial educational system has been imposed. And our souls and minds can’t accept it. Somehow we are forced to conform. And this requires violence to the mind, to the body, to the soul. And the system that successfully institutes this violence is called examination system. It requires a heap of mostly useless information. The mind somehow retains it for sometime till examination is cleared and then vomits it out. One vomits what can’t be digested and what one has really digested can hardly be known through this system. Academic terrorism that defines examination system is our greatest curse\– all terrorisms are parasitic on it. History can’t forgive those educationists who are hardly doing anything about it.

Of course there are some positives about the current system but its negatives far outweigh it and the reasoning that the Quran uses to reject wine, I apply here. In it is “great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit.”

Without denying need for certain evaluation system and the fact of difficulty of all serious learning, we are justified in asking who institutes for whom and why a given evaluation system. And does it deliver? And at what costs? No educationist or serious teacher is satisfied with the current system. There are dozens of reasons that make us sure about clinical death of the body called examination system. A few I mention today:

• All those who can’t clear the same exam they have cleared few months or years back

• Lessons are to be learnt rather than memorized to be forgotten after a particular time. We could read ten books and learn hundred new things during the time we compel our minds to memorize ten lessons

• Great teachers are least bothered about examination but focus on sharing knowledge and it is mostly less efficient teachers who are obsessed with exams. Almost all good teachers realize the point that exams are not true indicators of student’s worth. In fact examination system is required to make fools out of us.

• One must consent to read and reread the same notes not to miss a word or fill in the blank in exam. It requires desensitization and hatred of creativity. Even such “prestigious” exams as those of UPSC are linked to patience to mug mostly useless facts (one forgets most of them immediately after exams anyway). Most of the exams including entrance exams, UPSC exams involve something like prostitution of mind by mass of facts much of which is not of any use later in life or immediately after exams and are weeded out by our brain.

• The fact that most students would love copying if given any chance shows what a failure the system is. All such absurdities as craving for guess papers or other short cuts show that these corruptions are parasitic on a flawed system itself.

• Even memory that alone is tested by it, has been weakened ultimately by the current system. Our elders and ancients had far better memories.

• The developed world has almost done away with many suffocating features of the examination system we continue as a colonial legacy. It is not indigenous to our culture. We produced likes of Abhinavguptas without any examination system.

• Who can deny the fact that the dullest student can ask a question that the brightest professor may not be able to answer but who is such a fool that can assert that thereby professor should be judged? In fact in a system that primarily checks memory most teachers will fail the tests if students were to examine them. And if by some exigency student fails to have a last hour look at his notes, he may miserably fail as will the teacher who couldn’t properly prepare a lecture.

• Costs are too prohibitive to try resuscitating apparently a dead body. Assuming 5 lac students in our state and an exam of two hour duration taken after two days preparation days costs us 500000x50 hours. It means millions of men days in term of labour. What a cost! Nothing is learnt except that few pieces of information are processed for a sort of short term memory and following exams thrown into trashcan. We judge many to have failed and destroy their self confidence. Mediocrity primarily is promoted in a system that measures everything in two hours. For millennia in all cultures people have been taught wisdom and skills without this monstrous absurdity called examination.

• The best can’t be examined. It is no use examining the average stuff. Anyway they can’t win the competitive race. One must be a fool to think it is worth attempting to get 100% marks – competition forces students not to miss a comma, to be perfect photocopier or scanner who reproduces what is in the notes.

• Grammatically speaking, exams are taken, not given. But here exams are given taking our minds as ransom.

• The system has invited student alienation. Due to it we are producing so few good thinkers, scientists, philosophers.

• We are fighting for autonomy or self rule but refuse to give our youth opportunity to be themselves, to choose their vocation, to be creative, to convert prisons that our schools are perceived to into sanctuaries of learning. It is teacher’s/parent’s/community’s fault if student fails according to the best thinkers on education.

The day we revamp current exam system and replace it by more creative alternatives like assignments, presentations, credit seminars, group discussions, debates, open interactive sessions we would have moved one big step towards freedom. Post floods we could have spared mental trauma to students for one year but it seems mass promotion (to as many classes as possible) is being denied. If our State can’t give this much relief to people (and this will be service to students and people and State if we weigh carefully costs and benefits) what else can it give? Occasionally it is good to suspend some procedure to see if it is really needed.

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