Parents send their sons and daughters to schools and colleges to get education. Teachers work year in and year out to fulfill the task which society entrusts to them.
The students are expected to study hard throughout the session. If no examinations were to be held periodically, neither teachers nor students would know the result of their efforts. Besides this, examination present a goal before students so that they know the amount of work which must be put in within a definite period.
Examinations inspire them. Their work becomes systematic and study is done in a well-planned manner. So the examination have a two fold function. First, they fix up a goal and thus direct the efforts of students and teachers towards its achievement. Secondly, examinations lay down before the parent and society an assessment of the progress of students. In this way examinations are necessary. Their place and importance in the educational system cannot be challenged.
In spite of such importance of examinations, some people want them to be abolished. They feel that they are of no good and do positive harm to the cause of education. They encourage copying and the use of unfair means. The students form the habit of cheating. This is an extreme view. There are others, who consider examinations essential. They emphasize only their merits. But the truth lies between these two extremes. Let us first examine the merits of examinations.
Examination is the time of demonstration. Students have to show the examiners that they know the answers to the questions set in the paper. They do so by expressing their ideas and feelings in the form of written answers. Those who have good power of expression are always gainers. To secure good marks one should be able to express oneself well. Now, to gain success students try to develop this power. Moreover, the nature of the present essay type examinations is such that, by itself, it develop this important aspect of personality.
While answering questions, students are required to give reasons for their views. They cannot do so without giving due thought to the various arguments. They have to use their own intelligence. In the limited time which they get in the examination, only selected material can be given. They must leave out much from the material which they know but which they consider useless from the point of view of the particular question. In this way, examinations develop the power of thinking, reasoning and making right judgment.
Preparations for the examinations have to be made in advance. No single book can supply the required material on a particular topic. Students have to consult a number of books for preparing the topics thoroughly. They have to take out of the books they read, a part of the material and leave the rest. They then arrange this material in a systematic order. Thus, students get trained in selecting and arranging their material. They learn to distinguish between the relevant and the irrelevant part of the subject-matter. Examinations thus, by fixing the goal, provide incentive for hard and regular work.
This is only the bright side of the picture. Let us now also examine the dark side. There is no such scale for marking the answer books as may give definiteness to the marks scored by the students. The marking is purely subjective. The same examiner may give different marks on the same answer book, if he is asked to examine it at two different times. If the answer book of the same student is given to two different examiners, they are likely to give quite different marks. Thus, the marks obtained in the present essay type examinations are not the true test of merit. They are often quite misleading.
To secure good marks in the examination, lengthy answers are sometimes necessary. Keeping this in view, students cram up answers to different questions without understanding the sense and at times even without understanding the language. Those who are good at cramming are always benefited. Intelligent understanding of the subject-matter is not increased. Students thus become good parrots but poor brains.
Every one knows that the sole aim of education these days is to pass the examination. Students hanker after short cuts and cheap notes. ‘Guess papers’, ‘Atom-Bomb of Success’, ‘Twenty Four Hours Before Examination’, ‘Sure Success at Examinations’, and the like find favor with them. In fact, no love for knowledge, or taste for serious study, is developed.
One of the serious drawbacks of the examinations is that they fail to measure what they claim to measure. Through a paper on Science, Geography, or History, the knowledge of that particular subject is not tested. Language and expression play an important part. One, who knows the subject matter well but is weak in Hindi or if one’s writing speed is slow, will never fare well in the examination. Moreover, the question papers do not cover the whole course. Everybody knows that the student, who has prepared three-fourth’s of the course thoroughly, but has neglected the remaining one fourth, secures less marks than the student who has remaining one fourth, secures less marks than the student who has prepared only that one-fourth. So we can say that the marks obtained depend more on chance than on the true ability of the examinees.
After considering all the merits and demerits of examinations, we can conclude that examination are a necessary evil. They cannot be completely done away with. But the way and the form in which they are held need reform. There are so many serious defects in the present system of examinations that their purpose is completely defeated. They fail in measuring the progress of students.
Many ways of reforming the examination system have been suggested. One is the setting of objective type questions, instead of the present system in which the question require long, essay type answers. In this way, it becomes possible to cover the whole course and the personal factor is eliminated. This method has been used so far with success in medical and other competitive examinations. But its great draw-back is that it does not develop the expressive power of the students. Careful thinking is necessary before objective tests are introduced in schools and colleges. Semester system i.e. the holding of two examinations in one year instead of one, has also failed to solve the problem.