Exams should be flexible and fair

The current system of exams needs to be overhauled and reformed, at least for the future

June 27, 2020 04:41 pm | Updated 04:41 pm IST

Top view of group of students sitting together at table. University students doing group study.

Top view of group of students sitting together at table. University students doing group study.

Hundreds and thousands of students in India are in a state of anxiety. With the 2019-2020 exams not over, a big question mark lies over their fate. In states such as Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, the class X Board exams have been cancelled, and CBSE has now decided not to hold the remaining exams for class XII. Many universities and colleges are still undecided over whether to conduct the end-semester exams.

The future of exams, at least for this year, is bleak with COVID-19 spreading rapidly in Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai. Exams are usually conducted to evaluate knowledge and to test students’ understanding and learning levels. Unfortunately, over the years, education has become too exam-centric, and the latter has taken priority over learning.

Need for change

The inappropriate exam system, which mostly calls for rote memorisation, has failed to test the higher order thinking skills among students. Hence, there is a need for a thorough overhaul. The present one-size-fits-all system only increases the stress on students and parents. Exam procedures often lack of transparency, and students resort to malpractices. The annual/end-semester exams have failed to serve the selection needs of the next level of education/career.

The existing system calls for urgent reforms. It not only has to be flexible but also fair to all groups. Though many higher education institutions have continuous formative assessments and summative assessments, rarely does the continuous assessments include modes of assessments apart from the written tests.

Even the question papers do not test the various cognitive levels as prescribed by the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy. With the pandemic not allowing the congregation of students and with conditions like social distancing in force, we need to not only reduce the exam duration, but also the weightage given for the final one.

Digital tools

There are at least 17 digital online educational tools that are available for teachers. In place of written exams, students can be assessed through portfolios, course-embedded assignments, capstone projects, juried review of tasks, externally reviewed internship, performance on case studies, essay blind scored across units in the syllabus and other varied tools.

Students can be made to respond through online tests that require graphic response, equation response hot text and so on.

The online assessments embedded with the online course are learner-centric and can be conducted as and when the students opt for it rather than at the convenience of the system. These ICT-based systems not only make the exam system flexible, but also reduce the administrative and financial burden. It is said that University of Madras spends about ₹3 crores per semester to evaluate more than 12 lakh answer sheets. With online and various other modes of assessments, it is certain that exam-related administrative inconvenience and financial expenditure can be curtailed.

The results can be declared within a short time, even if a syndemic attack takes place, in the future. To change the system, a proper change in the mindset of teachers and students is required. Teachers have to be more objective to escape from the criticism of being partial. Even if colleges and universities decide to award marks on the basis of available test results, assignments, class room performance and attendance for this semester, it is necessary to bring changes in the system, at least for the future.

The writer is the Director (R&D), The Gandhigram Rural Institute, Gandhigram

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