Ancient Greek Philosopher, Socrates once said, “Education is not the filling of a vessel but the kindling of a flame”. These words of wisdom are as true and relevant today as they were then.
Education is about awakening intelligence and not the storage of information. We make it vice-versa if we confuse memory with intelligence. The most crucial reforms to be undertaken if we are to set the order right is in the prevalent system of examinations.
National assessment surveys from time to time have revealed an extremely poor performance in the learning outcomes of students even when results of annual board examinations are disproportionately better in quantitative terms.
This is precisely why it ought to be realised that there is no necessary correlation between one’s intellectual ability or academic excellence, and one’s performance in board or university examinations.
If someone has passed his 12th board examination with a distinction, why should he join a coaching institute for qualifying a medical or engineering entrance test.
Simply because the high performance in the prevalent examination system in the shape of an inflated marks sheet is no reflection of standards but a case of rote-memorisation.
Any observer will readily accept that it is commonplace to have an MA in English with distinction having no curiosity to enter the world of poetry or a gold medalist from the department of physics having no curiosity to unravel the laws of nature.
One’s quest for knowledge, joy of learning, aptitude and inclinations have no relevance as the system believes in the fetish of quantification. All ends up in perpetuating the vicious cycle of rote-learnig.
The craze for inflated marks sheets reduces a learner to a parrot, obliged to recite whatever is filled in his rote-memory. In the mechanics of memorisation and regurgitation, education suffers like a soulless machine. Evaluation becomes an unnecessary formality.
There have been numerous undeserving beneficiaries as well as faultless victims to this scheme of things. Even though the likes of Rabindranath Tagore and Jiddu Krishnamurti felt the pain of this oppressive ritual, the system remains as it is.
Reforms in the system of examination are indispensable if we want any far reaching reforms in pedagogy to be impactful. All pedagogic innovations are inconsequential unless dovetailed to a system of evaluation that rewards a real learner.
The remedy must begin with the premise that one’s curiosity, aptitude and intelligence can’t be sparked through a pattern of examination that compels one to be a robotic performer rather than a creative wanderer.
There has to be a paradigm shift away from ranking or grading based on rote-memory to a assessment of not just conceptual understanding but practical and real-world applications of knowledge. Question papers are to be such that they demand subjective, analytical and creative answers
Analytical questions will force children to think and respond from their understanding of the concepts. Such questions go against the idea of one size fits all. The students have the liberty to present innovative answers.
This will bring flexibility by making allowance for diverse types of learners. Reform will foster higher-order skills like critical thinking and analysis, reasoning, lateral thinking, creativity, and judgment. Also the skills vital to the 21th century knowledge society.
Author is a teacher by profession.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.