might Level at the progress made in every field of study, but the
methods of testing a person's knowledge and ability remain as primitive
as ever they were. It really is extraordinary that after all these years,
educationists have still failed to devise anything more efficient and reliable
than examinations. For all the pious claim that examinations test what you
know, it is common knowledge that they more often do the exact opposite.
They may be a good means of testing memory, or the knack of working
rapidly under extreme pressure, but they can tell you nothing about a
person's true ability and aptitude.
As anxiety-makes, examinations are second to none. This is because so
much depends on them. They are the mark of success or failure in our
society. Your whole future may be decided in one fateful day. It doesn't
matter that you weren't feeling very well, or that your mother died. Little
things like that don't count: the exam goes on. No one can give of his best
when he is in mortal terror, or after a sleepless night, yet this is precisely
what the examination system expects him to do. The moment a child begins
school, he enters a world of vicious competition where success and failure
are clearly defined and measured. Can we wonder at the increasing number
of 'drop-out' young people who are written off as utter failures before
they have even embarked on a career? Can we be surprised at the suicide
rate among students?
A good education should, among other things, train you to think for
yourself, The examination system does anything but that. What has to be
learnt is rigidly laid down by a syllabus, so the student is encouraged to
memorise. Examinations do not motivate a student to read widely, but to
restrict his reading; they do not enable him to seek more and more
knowledge, but induce cramming. They lower the standards of teaching,
for they deprive the teacher of all freedom. Teachers themselves are often,
judged by examination results and instead of teaching their subjects, they
are reduced to training their students in exam techniques which they despise.
The most successful candidates are not always the best educated; they are
the best trained in the technique of working under duress.
The results on which so much depends are often nothing more than a
subjective assessment by some anonymous examiner. Examiners are only
human. They get tired and hungry; they make mistakes. Yet they have to
mark stacks of hastily scrawled scripts in a limited amount of time. They
work under the same sort of pressure as the candidates. And their word
carries weight. After a judge's decision you have the right of appeal, but
not after an examiner's. There must surely be many simpler and more
effective ways of assessing a person's true abilities. Is it cynical to suggest
that examinations are merely a profitable business for the institutions that
run them? This is what it boils down to in the last analysis. The best
comment on the system is this illiterate message recently scrawled on a
wall: 'I were a teenage drop-out and now I are a teenage--millionaire.'
progress in many fields, but exams: a primitive method of testing
knowledge and ability.
Educationists haven't devised anything more efficient, reliable.
Exams should test what you know; often do the opposite.
Test of memory, working under pressure; not ability, aptitude.
Exams cause anxiety: mark of success or failure; future decided by
Personal factors (e.g. health, mother's death) inunaterial.
Cannot give of your best if in terror or after sleepless night.
School: vicious competition: success, failure clearly defined, mea-
Increasing number of 'drop-outs', suicides.
Education should train you to think for yourself; exam system doesn't.
Exams encourage memorisation; restrict reading;. induce cranuning.
They lower teaching standards; teacher: no freedom.
Teachers often judged by exam results; therefore teactt exam tech-
Most successful candidates not best educated; best trained in tech-
Results: subjective assessment by examiner.
Examiners human: tired, hungry, make mistakes, work under pressure.
After judge's decision, right of appeal; not after examiner's.
There must be more effective ways of assessing ability.
Exams merely a profitable business?
are a well-tried system: many advantages.
They offer the best quick way of assessing a candidate.
Their reliability has been proved again and again'.
They are marked anonymously: therefore reliable.
Not possible to do well relying merely on memory and exam tech-
They are often not the only way of assessing a candidate: used in con-
nection with teachers' assessments.
Exams are constantly being improved.
There are complex checking systems used by examiners to ensure fair
There is a lot of research into objective testing techniques to eliminate
Computers are already widely used to mark specially devised tests.
Pernicious aspects of system (cramming, etc.) are not the fault of
examinations, but of the teacher.
Teachers cram weak pupils to push them through; able pupils. don't
Teachers want examinations: they provide a clear objective.
The exam system may not be perfect, but it's the best we have; it may
be painful, but so are many things in life.