Examinations are a nuisance. That is what every student thinks: they are only malicious devices to hold up a student’s success. They serve no useful purpose because they are more a gamble than a test of real merit. For that reason, they should be abolished.
Many students feel in this way. On the face of it, the plea for the abolition of examinations cannot be supported. For it is taken for granted that there must be periodical test and assessment of the merits and progress in studies of students.
An annual or biennial examination with this objective seems the only way of doing this. But whether that is so will depend on a correct analysis of the merits and demerits of this examination system.
Let us take the demerits first. The fact that at the end of an academic session students must pass an examination has, or is likely to have, an undesirable influence on teaching. The teacher will always have his eye on the examination, and his teaching will be more in the nature of coaching students for a pass. All that students acquire in the process is the crammer’s art which may get them through an examination. They depend on more upon memory and a mechanical preparation of answers to questions than upon a proper assimilation of knowledge.
Further, examinations have their whims and fancies, and many of them are capricious and willful. The marking of answer scripts is subjective, there is a wide difference between one examiner and another; sometimes the same paper is awarded marks ranging from thirty-five to sixty-two. These difficulties are more than ever accentuated in examinations involving a large number of examinees. Due to the time factor, the work of examination has to be rushed, making assessment unreliable. Clearly, the system does not make for sound education.
Examinations are competitive tests. Here each student tries to surpass his peer. A spirit of healthy rivalry is not to be condemned outright, but rivalry soon degenerates into a selfish competition. Rich students take the aid of tutors and coaching schools which put them in an advantageous position. Many students are led to confine their knowledge selfishly to themselves, refusing to help their rivals. It makes them narrow-minded and selfish. It also puts an unnatural strain on ambitious students.
As to the merits of examination, let us at once admit that fear of examination keeps students at their books when they could have wasted their time otherwise. Hence, it serves the purpose of compelling students to read their books and thus to acquire at least some of the rudiments of learning. As to the test of merit, examinations might not do absolute justice to the examinee, but it certainly does substantial justice. In our country where little money is spent by the Government for education, a better alternative to examinations is yet to be devised.
Therefore examinations must continue in educational institutions for this reason until the Government is ready to finance more expensive alternatives. Even then examinations cannot be entirely abolished. But the nature of the test might be suitably amended in order to minimize the defects. Thus greater emphasis might be laid on the viva voce. It may be difficult to gauge the actual quality of a student from his written answer scripts, but an interview for a quarter of an hour will soon convince the examiner about his real merits.
Greater importance should be attached to class examinations. The month to month progress record of students ought to be taken into consideration, for steady work all through the year should have recognition. These enhancements are rendered difficult in our schools and colleges because there are too many students per teacher. Individual attention to each student is impossible. Hence class records are often incomplete and unsatisfactory.
One last suggestion might be made. Instead of one final test, examinations might be taken compartmentally twice each year. The final assessment should depend on a consideration of the results of these examinations. That would mean less concentration of effort on the part of the examinee and more systematic work all through the year. The reform might not be so very difficult to organize. In the USA they go one better. They do their course subject-wise and earn exemption with each subject passed.