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stray thoughts on examinations

stray thoughts on examinations


if there is a survey about examinations, 75.8 percent will say that examinations are evil.


what about the remaining 24.2 percent? well, they have never been to a school.


so far as i am concerned, ever since i joined the education line, about seventy five years back, in class three, i have been thinking what can be alternative for examinations. unfortunately every time i came to the conclusion that there is none.

if there is no alternative to examinations, what is all the research about? question well defined but the research has not been able to come up with a scheme which would appeal to everyone, or even anyone.

my thoughts crystallized into a conclusion that since there is no alternative to examinations, all that can be done is to make them less painful. our efforts in research should be directed towards that end.

let us examine a few negative points of examinations –

  1. it is a test of memory, not understanding

  2. if not successful, it means waste of a full year.

  3. whether it is pass or fail, it has a spread over all of your capabilities.

  4. the marks obtained in examination, favourable or unfavourable, stay with you throughout your life.

  5. with limited seats in professional courses (and prestigious colleges) even one mark can make a difference.


off hand, i can think of only these. there may be others but these appear to be the main difficulties. let us see how these can be mitigated.

  1. cannot do much about it. the life depends upon what you remember, not on what you can find in books or on websites. examination with open books also do not make a difference because you must remember where you can find the answer. on the website, you must remember the url or at least how to search. no readymade answer will be there. the research should be directed, if necessary, to improvement of memory.

  2. the remedy is simple, have the examinations twice a year or maybe every three months. the on line tests can help. the question papers need not be printed but be available on the screen. the answers can be on line or off line (on paper). in either case evaluation will follow.

  3. the result need not be pass or fail. just indicate the marks obtained in each subject without mentioning pass or fail. it may be 86 percent in one subject, 23 percent in another. it does not matter. the recruiting agency will know what they are looking for. if the person has 86 percent in chemistry and it is the relevant knowledge for the post in question, it does not matter if geography fetches 12 percent marks, the person concerned will be able to fulfil the needs of the job.

  4. the marks obtained in one attempt need not stay with you forever. you should be able to reappear in a subject, study and improve your marks (it will be stop valve type. you cannot get lower, only higher) . the attempt can be for one or more subjects. there should be no limit on the attempts you can make. after all it is knowledge you are after. (in 1993, as chairman , board of secondary education, i had proposed that any number of attempts can be made but only till you clear a higher public examination, for example class 12 in case of reappearing in subjects at the level of class 10).

  5. in most of institutes of higher learning, a minimum of knowledge in certain subjects is necessary. once this is there, the next criterion is the aptitude of the person concerned. it can only be ascertained through his write ups in answer to pointed questions, not on the subject, but on the attitude and inclination. the final test is statement of aspirations which are again in answer to pointed questions, not a tutored write-up. personal interviews or personal presence will be necessary for this step. yes, there may be questions about favouritism but that cannot be avoided. it is there in interviews for all india services, in professorship of institutes of eminence. as with examinations, there is no escape from them also. it is all a part of character building but that is another subject.


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