“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”
– Albert Einstein
Compelling, isn’t it? If there’s even an iota of truth in the statement, it makes you wonder how many of us can actually call ourselves educated. This, considering how we’ve conditioned our mind to assimilate whatever ‘knowledge’ we can for a limited period of time, I.e. till about 5 seconds after we’re done expelling that know-how out of our system and on a sheet of paper that’ll hopefully facilitate our promotion to another series of examinations. This cycle will continue till we can satisfy our conscience enough for the society (and our parents) to deem us ‘educated’. Works well, everyone’s happy.
For some time now, especially after joining University, there’s an existential crisis of sorts every student goes through (at one point or another). What exactly am I doing? Where am I going with this? And why?
Especially in the Arts stream of subjects, you’ll notice how majority of the students will take to their respective ‘companion studies’ about a week or two before the examinations, cram every word their intellectual ability will permit them to, and go discharge it on a sheet of paper. This sheet, ladies and gentlemen, will not only be the yardstick to assess how smart, intelligent and capable the student is, but also be the sole criterion to base his/her future on. Did someone say it’s the 21st century? Because I am beginning to have my doubts about it.
It is imperative to mention here, that examination, as a concept is not intrinsically flawed. In fact, a remarkable number of times, examinations force a student, who otherwise may be too engrossed in other aspects of life, to actually take notice of a subject. A lot of times, this may result in the student realizing what a knack he/ she has for the subject but was just too oblivious of the fact, something the mere fear to do well in examinations made him realize.
So is the folly in the very idea of exams, or does the fault lie in our perception of the omnipresent concept?
Pradipta Singh Dutta, a final year student of B.A History Honors from College Of Vocational Studies, DU makes a very interesting point pertinent to the matter in question.
“Examinations are important but can’t be the only criterion to judge how good or bad a student is. The problem of rote learning can only be solved by keeping a part of the examination written. And the other part of it in which the student gets to speak and interact. Thus, this would help us gauge how the student really is, holistically.”
But don’t ‘internal assessments’ cater to the other part? Surprisingly, no. Even though that’s the very purpose they were introduced for in the first place, they’ve essentially been reduced to the same superficial and shallow gimmickry. Part of the internal assessment goes into marking the student on his attendance, a practice that is again looked at with raised eyebrows. The rest goes into judging students on their assignments and how well they can copy paste from Google. How is this a fair means of assessing a student? It isn’t.
In universities such as Harvard and Cambridge, a few teachers are slowly but gradually doing away with final exams and replacing it by take-home tests, papers, projects, or group presentations. While the former haven’t completely been eradicated, their numbers across the States is surely diminishing. However, the all-important question is whether a country like India, that is obsessed with exams and mark-sheets, will ever be able to make such a change? With the ever increasing cut offs, this seems like a far cry. Nonetheless, with the emergence of start-up cultures and several big-shot companies refusing to pay heed to your mark-sheet, this may still be a possibility. Fingers and toes crossed.
Featured Image Credits: The Hindu