Examining exams

More to education than exams and marks.   | Photo Credit: Pixabay

For a long time now, exam scores have been the main indicator of a child’s abilities and success. The primary motive of school education is to impart knowledge, values, and skills that will help develop necessary life skills to be successful. However, the cut-throat nature of our examination system celebrates the success of a few and creates unhealthy competition and inordinate amounts of stress in children who are physiologically, psychologically and emotionally not ready to handle it.

Exams and tests are important, no doubt, but should be regarded only as a measure of learning. The problem lies not just with the concept of exams but also with how they are conducted. There is a wealth of information and insight about a student’s potential and ability that cannot be captured in a report card. Exams in India focus on grades (the product) rather than on what is learnt (the process). Most of what is learnt is forgotten by the next exam cycle. This is also why students choose careers in domains where they have scored well in, rather than fields that they are interested in.

Holistic learning

However, the New Education Policy 2020 places emphasis on holistic and cumulative learning rather than having one main exam determine a student’s fate. Students are to be assessed based on their performance in different classes, the first two years of primary school are to be test-free from 2021, and report cards will no longer include the class and level rankings at both primary and secondary levels. Board exams will cover a range of subjects and test only core concepts. Students can take exams on two occasions during an academic year. In order to track students’ progress throughout their school years, exams will be conducted in classes III, V, and VIII. Further, a common national exam will be introduced for students applying to the 60-odd universities in the country. This, experts say, will not only regulate how universities are run, but will also “set higher standards and build rigour into the education system”.

Such changes will help create a holistic learning environment that is safe, supportive, and provide opportunities to learn and excel in non-academic as well as academic domains.


India has taken a giant aspirational leap with the NEP. Now begins the real test: implementation. The key to effective change starts with the teachers. Implementing policies of this scale will require Herculean efforts in the training and professional development of teachers as well as the implementation of technology-based solutions and processes that can augment teacher training and bring in scalable, sustainable and measurable change.

If implemented thoughtfully, the NEP has the power to propel our education system forward. What we need is a system that encourages children to question and learn rather than just “mug it up”. With successful private and public collaboration, the NEP’s visions for early childhood to higher education, professional education to vocational education, and teacher training to professional education can be realised.

The writer is co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer at Learning Matters Pvt. Ltd, a Bengaluru-based ed-tech company.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2021 12:36:03 AM |

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