A major shift

Examinations are an integral part of our academic studies. It sorts out the sheep from the goats and imbibes a competitive spirit among the students and helps them to improve their reasoning and t...

Examinations are an integral part of our academic studies. It sorts out the sheep from the goats and imbibes a competitive spirit among the students and helps them to improve their reasoning and thinking ability. While it is true that by conventional examination the real talent and intellectual abilities of students cannot be understood and explored fully, conducting exams are extremely necessary and we cannot do away with it. The innovations in our examination, evaluation and curriculum set up will always remain a big step forward towards our development.
In a major shift from its traditional approach the Kashmir University is all set to have a single-paper scheme at the undergraduate level in the next session. The policy of introducing a single-paper first in board examinations and now the University following the suit will ease out and simplify the examination process. The scheme has multiple benefits for the Board and the University in terms of time, money and energy. It will bring down the expenses incurred by the state government on printing answer books and other stationery items including evaluation of answer scripts. It will reduce the burden of fee on examinees who in turn will now have to pay lesser fee. With now lesser number of answer scripts, the quality of evaluation can be enhanced by increasing the remuneration of examiners. So a long drawn process of conducting exams, declaring results, revaluation etc will be short and less hectic.
One component of the scheme, which is the internal examination at the college level in the mid session, is particularly an attractive one. The attendance and the assessment by teachers in the colleges have now an important role to play. The common entrance test (CET) and the AIEEE examination badly affect the science academics in the colleges, as most of the candidates register in the colleges for BSc classes but never turn up till these exams are over. There are others who indulge in side business and other assignments after registering in the college as a regular student and seldom attend the classes. These students have huge shortage of attendance and they are never being stopped for appearing in the university examinations.  The mid term exams in the single-paper scheme will certainly put a break on their activity and they will have to maintain more than 75 % attendance, to be able to appear for university exams.
While talking to many serious academicians about the new examination scheme, there was a mixed response.  Renowned scholar and academician Dr A R War was all praise for this scheme but he maintained that the scheme will have good results only when it is seriously implemented. While others were of the opinion that our students will have to go through less content of syllabi and they will make merry all the year round but at the time of examination they will experience a lot of stress and anxiety and will choose to cut corners.
The new examination layout based on a single-paper scheme is good and innovative but it has many holes in it.  At an average level the single-paper system will make the students somewhat lethargic and psychologically relaxed to do deep studies of their subjects. But at the same time it will be a heavy burden on students as they will have to revise a huge chunk of syllabus in a short period during exam days which becomes an extremely difficult task. Presently the parents of the students, who are appearing in the board exams under single-paper scheme, are complaining that their kids are under tremendous pressure.
 For compiling a single-paper syllabus out of the two paper syllabi we have to delete some portions, which means lesser curriculum for students in one academic year. This will expose students to lesser academics. Further, the academic and competitive exams are entirely different. Over a long period there has been a two-paper scheme in competitive exams like civil service, forest service and state service exams. If things could have been made much simpler by adopting a single-paper scheme why it was not adopted by them for easing their process of making selections for various posts.
The internal examination at the college level seems good as well as bad at the same time. The good part is that the students will have to attend the college almost regularly and their attendance must not fall below 75%. This is a healthy sign for academic atmosphere to prevail. But the ground reality is different. We have to see how for the students of the colleges who are appearing in CET and AIEEE exams can fulfill this attendance percentage and other criteria. We have the examples of 11th class house examination, there have been numerous complaints of favoritism, tuition exploitation and personal influence and in some cases parents scuffle with teachers over the failure of their wards etc and it is doing more harm than good. So under the prevailing situation it is not guaranteed that everything will be hanky dory.
The present system of examinations really kills the very essence of education because it encourages the habit of cramming and rote learning which has been a routine and normal learning exercise all along and widely practiced by our children, big guys, university students, scholars, religious students etc. We see our students passing time carelessly for the whole year without studying and as the exams get nearer they rote learn some selective topics for a few days and manage to pass the examination. They don't even know what they are cramming and for what. Will the new scheme of single-paper examination, prevent or promote this learning menace, only time will tell!
The University's Board of Studies for Examinations should revamp different syllabi and question paper pattern in tune with examinations like the National Eligibility Test (NET) and State Eligibility Test (SLET) and those conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) and state PSC. This will orient the students to the prevalent patterns in competitive examinations and they will not have to make an extra effort to prepare for such competitive exams. The syllabi should be such that it provides enough scope to the students and the teachers to go beyond the boundaries of the textbooks and the notes.
Real education is the only thing which helps us learn the things practically. It is a sad fact that in our curriculum the knowledge required to pass the exam is too theoretical and sometimes useless.  The theoretical marks in the subjects are deciding the final grade of mark sheet. The emphasis on the practical part and assignments which provides room for acquiring a thorough understanding of the subject has been missing in our curriculum. With the result that our universities and colleges have remained as factories churning out thousands and thousands of graduates and postgraduates only to be unemployable. And these are the reasons that lead to failure of students in real life situations.
It is now right time for the authorities to revisit and look deep into the curriculum and the evolution process and see that they are not missing anything which may boomerang later on. The change in the examination and curriculum pattern was a must and may be that this leads us towards more refined model like open book examination system etc. But at the same time we have to promote and maintain quality education, so that college education really becomes worth the investment of time, money and energy and college graduates find themselves completely able to get a quality job. I will close my chapter with a saying that "One-day cricket is an exhibition and Test cricket is an examination".

(The author is Associate Professor  & Head Department of Physics, Amar Singh College, Srinagar. Feedback amin_malik_ku@hotmail.com)

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