Examination is to most of the students a matter of botheration, standing in their way as forbiddingly as the tree of wisdom in the Garden of Eden for Adam and Eve. On the face of it, the plea for their abolition cannot be supported.
For it goes without saying that there must be periodical tests and assessment of merits to measures the progress in studies, achieved by students during a specific period of time. An annual or half-yearly examination with this object seems the only way of doing this. But whether it really serves this purpose depends on a correct analysis and evaluation of the merits and demerits of this examination system.
The fact is that at the end of an academic session students must pass an examination, too often has an undesirable influence on teaching. The teacher will always have his eyes on the examination and his teaching will be more in the nature of coaching students for a pass than building up his mind.
Thus, teaching has now largely become examination-oriented. It has become a paradox, like the tail wagging the dog, i.e. education is for examination and not the vice versa. It is today the system of examination that precisely sets the tone of teaching in classrooms how much and in what way a particular topic is important from the examination standpoint. All that a student acquires in the process is the crammer-art, which may help him through the examination. Students depend more upon memory-work and a mechanical preparation of answers to questions than upon a proper assimilation of knowledge.
Furthermore, there is the subjective factor. Examinations have their whims and fancies widely diverging. Different examiners, or even the same examiner at different times, award makes inconsistently. These difficulties are more than ever accentuated in examination involving a large number of candidates. Because of the time factor, the work of examination has to be rushed through, making assessment hasty as thereon unreliable. Clearly, the system does not inspire confidence or does justice to the examinees.
Examinations are competitive tests in which each student rise to surpass his rival. A spirit of healthy rivalry is not to be discouraged outright, but rivalry soon degenerates into selfish competition. Rich students take the help of private tutors, which place them in a position of advantage. It makes students narrow-minded and selfish. It also puts on ambitious students unnatural strain. Instead of knowledge being the end of learning, the art of managing in examination becomes the be-all and end-all of study
It is to be admitted that fear of examination keeps students at their books when they might have wasted their time otherwise. There 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, however, do not to absolute justice to the examinees. Answer scripts that are considered ‘marginal cases’ receive weightage or extra benefit on compassionate grounds.
In our country, a better alternative to examinations has not yet been devised. For this reason examinations must continue in our schools, colleges and universities. The USA is ready to finance more expensive alternatives like the objective or precision-machine based on ones progress. Even then examinations cannot be entirely abolished. But the nature of the test might be suitably amended in order to obviate or minimize the defects.
Thus, greater stress should be laid on the oral tests. It may be difficult to gauge the actual proficiency of a student from his written answer but in an interview for a quarter of an hour will soon convince the examiner as to his true caliber. Greater importance should be attached to class examinations. A student’s month-to-month record of progress ought to be taken into consideration on a semester system. The final assessment should depend on a consideration of effort on the part of the students on final or public examinations. The stress is more on systematic work all through the year. The reform might not be so very difficult to organize with the co-operation of all concerned.