Unexamined Life

 

An unexamined life may be a worthless life.  The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has decided to do away with examinations altogether in class X from 2013.  The schools will conduct an internal examination.  In other words, almost all the students will be promoted to class XI. 

We have already created a pampered generation of youngsters today.  They wield mobile phones worth tens of thousands of rupees, chat on the internet using the phones, watch movies and listen to songs, and interact with peers in the virtual world. 

Just today I watched class XII students getting their project works written with the help of junior students.  They don’t have the patience to write their own work.  They won’t in all probability bother to read what the juniors have copied from the books for them.  They will go for the practical examination armed with the project work copied by somebody else and get through too because of the influence their school wields over the external examiner who comes for the practical exam. 

Teachers cannot scold or punish this pampered generation.  If any teacher dares to do any such thing he/she runs the risk of being arrested by the police and thrown in prison thereby losing his job.  Nobody who has spent a day in the prison can continue to be a teacher in this country.  So it’s good bye to admonitions and impositions as far as the teacher is concerned.  It’s a damn easy life as far as the student is concerned.

“Textbooks too heavy for children,” screams a 5-column headline in today’s Hindu newspaper [19 Jan].  The report opens thus: “Embarrassed over bad performance of Indian students, both nationally and internationally, Union Human Development Minister Kapil Sibal on Wednesday blamed it on ‘age-inappropriate’ textbooks in school curriculum.”  In other words, Sibal is all for making the curriculum lighter still. 

I agree that some schools introduce textbooks which are not at all suitable for students merely for the sake of projecting a certain high standard as revealed by the textbooks prescribed.  Sibal’s remarks may apply to such schools which are a minority.  As a solution, if Sibal decides to make the curriculum uniform all over the country and introduce the same textbooks I will not hesitate to support him.  Regional differences and needs can be taken care of in the language textbooks which can vary from region to region.

But the young generation should not be pampered too much.  There must be examinations.  I wonder why Sibal and CBSE are so keen on doing away with the external exam for class ten.  Observations made by teachers reveal that by making the exam optional in class ten last year we have got a set of students who do not deserve to sit in class XI at all.

Exam is a strong motivating factor for youngsters.  In the words of Elizabeth Hurlock, psychologist, “Achievements bring personal satisfaction as well as social recognition (to adolescents).  That is why achievements, whether in sports, school work, or social activities, become such a strong interest as adolescence progresses.” [Developmental Psychology]

Exam is a means of testing and proving one’s achievement.  Why take away that pleasure from the adolescents?  Why ruin their future by diverting their attention from academic achievement to other things where they will try to prove their worth in order to get recognition?

Internal exams don’t serve much purpose.  Teachers often work under many restrictions, restrictions imposed by the institution, parents and the students.  Internal exams are often a farce.

“Adolescents tend to aspire unrealistically high,” says Hurlock.  Exams sometimes may have devastating effect on them because of that.  But the solution is certainly not discarding exams altogether.  It is making exams more meaningful and relevant.

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About matheikal

My more regular blog can be accessed at www.matheikal.blogspot.com
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6 Responses to Unexamined Life

  1. Sir, pardon me but I found the post quite unbalanced. On one side you argue the proposal for doing away the exam and on the other you completely ignore the pros of doing away with them.
    About Hurlock’s quote, I feel the thrill of achievement would stem from the fact that the student has been fairly awarded whatever he deserved but you know the truth, we have often seen that papers are not very scientifically graded. Even when I and Parag could score 89 in our pre-boards when you graded the paper, we should have have sailed well past 90, we could actually manage only 82 and 86(I’m sure you would have seen millions of examples as well). So I feel that the whole achievement argument is a little flawed.
    Also, sir from where you work and I studied, I think I’ll be safe in speaking for all the students of the organization that ‘scold’ and ‘punish’ are too soft words to use. Reality is much more than that. Also, who gave the teachers the divine right to manhandle or thrash a kid?
    I too am with you on the argument that exams should not be done away with not because this is a deterrence to the pampering they would otherwise enjoy but with a different standpoint which is that doing this would make our kids less than ready for the stiff competition which awaits them outside.

    • matheikal says:

      Sid, I think you misread me somewhere. I haven’t argued for doing away with exams anywhere.

      I agree with you that CBSE’s evaluation system is highly flawed. I have written a few blogs on that too earlier. What is required is to make the evaluation system effective rather than do away with exams.

      The school has come a long way from your days. Even scolding has become a rare phenomenon! Your days were quite different.

  2. subhorup says:

    You have touched on a wide range of complex issues here. Let me first get the disagreement part of it out of the way. Examination-oriented education has been proven to produce students who are more prone to memorize and reproduce rather than inquire and understand. I see what you mean about pampered students being pampered more, but then the exam system is the same system that has given us the Sibals and the CBSE board members, and may I say that we, the SIbals and the MMJs, in a generalized manner, are not the best of role models going forward.

    What is needed is an entire rethink about what education is, right from parenting, to quotas and reservation, to the perception of primary and secondary education being gateways to professional courses, to law that enforces it.

    Your point of making exams more meaningful and relevant holds the key. Instead of examining what the student knows, we should examine how he thinks, what he believes, and how he solves problems and takes decisions. Education is about building our future. If the education system has to break free from the farce that it is now, it has to start with the parents choosing to let their children score high on being human rather than on board exams.

    Would I like the exam system to be done away with? Yes, for the simple reason that it will free children and adolescents from pursuing the aspirations of their parent and allow them to be children and adolescents, and make your and my life miserable by picking our brains, which in my experience is the best education one can ever ask for. Thanks for a very thought provoking read.

    • matheikal says:

      Thanks, Subhorup. Your view is quite radical. If such a radical reform is practical I’m all out to support it. Right from parenting to assessment, reform is needed at every step.

      But given the present system, I’d still support the exam system. The pattern of questions can be changed. The objectives need to be changed.

      Ultimately, what I feel and understand, is that we are now creating a generation of irresponsible and selfish generation who have lost all ideals. I didn’t say it so bluntly in the post. But the post became complex enough with the simple random thoughts I brought together.

  3. Raghuram Ekambaram says:

    Matheikal, I am not joining the other two in my criticism of this post … my take is entirely different …

    The education system has been imposed by the demands of the market place … No one tries to find a suitable employment to match her educational attainmet and/or aptiude for the subject, work and all those other ‘soft’ things. Each student has a job-goal, which is in face a lifestyle goal, and she is studying to reach that goal. Tell me, where does an education program, its goals, its insititutions, its procedures, come into this equation? Does it matter at all that you get an IT certificate from an IT institute offering vocational education after doing correspondence course in commerce from a university and fly off to the US on the basis of your IT certificate? What maters is you emigrated to the US and your job-skill WAS saleable. Why do people want to do B.Tech from an IIT? For the most part, to be part of the preferred pool for IIM entry and/or go to the US for higher studies.

    I am repeating myself the hundredth time – decouple exams from the rigidities of the education program but not do away with exams. Make the tests format-free, unpredictable y-on-y. No use referring to previous years’ papers. You study, learn and write exams. The best thing is the schools as well as the coaching institute will have no clue as to how to “teach to test” when the test format is unknown. Whether you like electricity and magnetism or not, yu have to learn it, because it could as well command 60% of the marks in the test! Chaos yes. But, yes to clarity too.

    RE

    • matheikal says:

      I’m absolutely fine with your suggestions, Raghuram. When I argued for exams, I wasn’t arguing for rote memory-based, fact-repeating kind of exams. Yes, let the exam be meant to assess the real knowledge of the student, his aptitude, skills, etc. It’s not at all difficult to change our present system into that new one.

      Isnt it possible to modify the curriculum regularly so that it suits the demands of the time and the students? So that the students find learning an enjoyable process? So that even the exam becomes fun? Of course, that’s what you are suggesting in other words. That’s what I too want.

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