The Great Indian Distressful Examinations: An Introspection
The apprehensions to fail in examinations usher students to a distressful state. The education system should strategize to avert the fear psychosis in students in respect to any examination. The examination is not the end of the road. Instead, it is an opportunity of knowing the individual’s capabilities even through failure and move on to the other possible avenues for a successful life. Holistic improvement in the quality of primary education and secondary education holds the key to keep students away from any distress.
Recent incidents of suicides by the NEET (National Eligibility Entrance Test) aspirants just after the conduction of examination is frightening and paints our education system with skepticism. The loss of life on account of fear of not qualifying in any examination refers to the ultimate state of despair in the child who presumes that it is impossible to pass it. Most importantly, similar unfortunate incidents of medical aspirants losing lives have been observed in the past years too, as 14 deaths were reported in 2020, 7 in 2019, and 11 in 2018. Considering the number of registered students being approximately 1.6 million in 2020, the number of students committing suicide may appear minuscule, but the reasons behind such tendency among young students are vexatious. Simultaneously, the announcement by National Testing Agency (NTA) to debar certain candidates for alleged malpractices in the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) 2021 and CBI investigation in it concludes that the stakes are quite high. It is, rather, unfortunate that some people try to grab seats following unethical practices which is highly distressing for those toiling hard to secure a seat by merit.
Sadly, despondency among students is sometimes evinced in those participating in other competitive examinations too. This essentially points to the miserable competency of students who eventually lose hope. It is much more bothering at a time when the country has a huge set up of coaching institutions in parallel to the usual set up of schools for providing secondary education. However, the coaching does incur huge costs on the students in addition to the normal fees charged by schools. Quite likely, the awfully varying socio-economic conditions may not permit all families to afford ‘coaching’ for their children. Thence, the children who are unable to get into some coaching due to their inability to bear its cost have to solely depend on the learning they had from the formal school education.
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It is worth contemplating that the appearing candidates for every examination whether competitive examinations or regular examinations, can be classified into two broad categories as – those ‘who take up coaching’ and those ‘who do not take up coaching’. The apparent reason for the requirement of coaching in addition to regular classes lies in the insufficient learning in the formal education system. This compels the students to make up for their learning deficiencies in order to score well in regular as well as competitive examinations.
Interestingly, whenever the results of any examination are declared in the country, the coaching establishments also issue huge advertisements to unveil the performance of the students enrolled with them. These also include most of the best performers of formal education too. Thus, even the brightest minds joining coaching to secure top ranks in various examinations is unsettling and connotes the complete failure of the education system. It is worth pondering that when the ‘brilliant’ ones are unable to achieve their academic goals while relying solely upon formal education, then the ‘mediocre’ and ‘below mediocre’ students have to inevitably enter into coaching institutions for meeting out their aspirations. Formal education is simply unable to deliver up to expectations.
Nevertheless, the despicable formal education system monopolises on account of their recognition by the statutory authorities and the enrolment in them becomes mandatory for all. Consequently, the presence of dummy educational institutions merely for the enrolment of candidates for examination purposes and the mushrooming of coaching institutions preparing them to achieve their targets is quite popular nowadays. Today, various cities like Kota, Delhi, Ranchi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kanpur, etc. have emerged as coaching hubs with a large number of coaching establishments concerning specific examinations. The economy of these cities is predominantly governed by the coachings over there. As per a report, the Indian coaching industry is growing tremendously and is likely to become worth $130 billion by 2022. Unequivocally, the scrupulous assessment of the growth of the coaching industry pans out to the unworthiness of the formal education system. The diminishing sheen of education institutions in the rising glow of coaching is enticing students toward them. It calls for honest introspection by the academics, even though this has been a concerning issue for quite some time.
Undoubtedly, the examinations are meant for assessing the knowledge, its application, skill, and aptitude irrespective of the nature of the examination, whether its class examination or competitive examination. Quite likely, the exodus of students from the classes in the formal education system to coaching classes is the sequelae of the poor quality of teaching, failure in understanding concepts, lesser care of student learning, absence of doubt removal opportunities, absence of hands-on to complex problem solving, inability to teach as per the latest trends in competitive examinations, slow pace of teaching, etc. Contrary to this, the coachings allure candidates because of their customized tutoring to suit the specific requirements of scoring well in the examinations. Unfortunately, the limited focus of coaching towards ensuring good scores pushes the unexpurgated learning to the backseat as the attainment of the end goal is also the priority of students and their families. Howbeit, the purpose of education gets defeated in the absence of thrust on holistic learning of the subjects taught. The limited learning in coaching is aimed to only succeed in certain examination(s) which may have severe implications in the future.
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Without any prejudice to the coaching in the country, whether online or offline, it is imperative to track down the reasons for students shifting away from the formal education system towards coaching. It goes without saying that improving the worthiness of formal education will strengthen the knowledge and competence of its students in general. This will automatically resolve the problems of deprivation of financially weak students from coaching as these will become redundant.
Concomitantly, academics should ponder upon the pattern of the examinations so that the processes become reasonably foolproof. Bristling at the recent malpractices, the vulnerability to malpractices in computer-based multiple sessions of the same examination calls for suitable changes in the methodology. Similarly, the examinations being held only once a year limit the chances for examinees, but the vulnerability of examinations to unfair practices gets curtailed. Also, the normalization of marks secured by candidates in multiple sessions, the normalization of multiple sets of question papers, and preparing the inter se merit based on multiple sessions always have variances for different candidates. It should be understood that every candidate will have different perceptions about the same question; it being simple, moderate, difficult, or the most difficult. This means that the qualitative exercise of moderation and quantitative exercise of normalization together cannot supersede the quality of the merit list prepared on the basis of a single examination across the country as done earlier. Moreover, the objective nature of questions is only good for competitive examinations where the merit list preparation based on the candidates’ knowledge is the primary objective. However, the subjective questions in regular class examinations should not be substituted by objective type questions for assessing the learning level of students.
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Allaying the fear of failure in any examination is urgently required across the country and at all levels of education. The education system should strategize to avert the fear psychosis in students in respect to any examination. The examination is not the end of the road. Instead, it is an opportunity of knowing the individual’s capabilities even through failure and move on to the other possible avenues for a successful life.
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Summarily, holistic improvement in the quality of primary education and secondary education holds the key to keep students away from any distress. Such enhanced learning of students will also pave the way to make coaching institutions redundant. Concerted efforts are required to create an all-inclusive education culture capable of meeting the contemporary expectations of all examinations. The sole dependence of students on the formal education system should be in focus for transforming the education processes, else the prominence of coaching institutions will continue burdening society with the additional cost of education which could be out of reach for many and depress students from such families or the weaker ones losing their life.
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About the author
Prof. Onkar Singh is the Vice Chancellor of Veer Madho Singh Bhandari Uttarakhand Technical University, Dehradun, He has been the Founder Vice-Chancellor of the Madan Mohan Malaviya University of Technology, Gorakhpur (U.P.). He is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Harcourt Butler Technical University, Kanpur (U.P.).
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