The Quagmire of Secondary Examination and a Call for Overhaul

An assessment that serves the nation, draws to the fore the best in every individual yet retains the specialized skills, expertise and choice, emphasizing crucially on assessment of the best in a learner, is the need of the hour.

An examination - rather than an assessment is a critical part of the learning process of a student. In India and around the world, various standard assessments are designed, catering to the demands of the system and industry, focusing on national ethos. However, this pandemic has thrown upon many fundamental questions on the assessment methods followed in the Indian scenario. Especially, the clouds of uncertainty, volatile and varied priorities of different states and boards alike, in adopting suitable assessment methods are proving to be a bane for the students. The glorious career-defining aura of one board examination, or rather a series of three hour long tests paving the path for success in future, of late appears to be misplaced.

Let's have a look at some critical aspects of the examination pattern and the scope for further improvement, at this crucial juncture at the crossroads of pandemic induced imbroglio and the need for scaling up to match global standards!

The year-end assessment system heavily relies on a student's performance in a few sittings without considering continuous evaluation throughout the year.

  • One examination, glorified to make or break a person's career, defining future success is wrong in the first place, as questions are not even designed that way to promote critical thinking and skills essential for success ahead.

  • Year end examination or term end assessment, promotes haphazardness and rote learning, rather than making learning enjoyable with regular and steady progress.

  • More so in the pandemic, infrastructural bottleneck and digital divide is critically hampering the learning process for many students, leaving too many things to be desired, in terms of the assessment.

  • Promoting no assessment for 14/15 years to reduce stress and in a quick shift expecting students to write tests in a stressful environment is counterproductive! Furthermore, there is hardly any scientific study to support such a move, looking forward to leveraging human resources.

Why can't we make learning productive, more enjoyable, rewarding and thoroughly engaging for students with continuous evaluation and year round improvement, by integrating with scientific strategies?

Having discussed the limitations, let's look at the solutions that can provide a fillip to the assessment system, a better way to leverage human resources, and overhaul the present system for long-term gain, serving larger interests.

  • Assessment has to be continuous rather than being one off, all defining yearly events, with different components of contribution to final academic score. This will make learning more engaging, enjoyable and reduce the immense amount of stress students have to go through. Further, in event of unforeseen circumstances, those methods can be leveraged to arrive at a scientific, acceptable performance score:

  • Infrastructure bottlenecks, digital divide and participation at grassroots level have to be addressed proactively. Without adequate infrastructure, students can't be trained or drawn to the classroom, to make learning enjoyable year round. It has to be more than just enrollment and mid day meal participation.

  • Training the human resources, continuous skill upgradation, encouraging, rewarding teachers for the role and ushering in a change in mindset has to be worked on sooner than later. Existing mechanism has several limitations, in realizing the goals, which needs to be addressed.

  • Integrating classrooms with smart technologies, digital exchange and training the workforce for the new role.

  • Restructuring the syllabus to facilitate round the year learning and to make it an enjoyable experience, outcome parameter based assessment. The comprehensive Annual Secondary Education Report (ASER) is an eye opener!

  • Including and increasing the share of activity based learning, project, presentation and demonstration and seminar themed programs for effective learning outcome and long term progress.

Education in its truest spirit is liberating! It empowers an individual and a society, thereby a nation in a broader perspective. However, an assessment system discriminating against the best, the average and compartmentalizing the below average grades seemingly does more damage to the purpose of progress than being inclusive! The new education policy proposes a number of measures living up to that expectation, albeit with a caveat - until its transformative potential is realized.

An assessment that serves the nation, draws to the fore, the best in every individual yet retains the specialized skills, expertise and choice, emphasizing crucially on assessment of the best in a learner, is the need of the hour. And India truly has her largest capital - ‘Education’, to nurture the dream of being a global leader in the 21st century, where all-round creative assessment has a pivotal role to unleash the huge intangible human capital.

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