Published:  12:57 AM, 17 April 2018

Too many problems from too many exams

From the current situation of education in Bangladesh, it seems that there is no meaning of education except passing exams. Do our policymakers understand any more than this about education? Hard to be sure from the practices they are engaged in. There are too many exams in our schools. These exams do more harm than good to our children. Not only national level exams, there are too many in school and classes. Though it creates an illusion of great learning, the real effect is the opposite.

In our school there are four national exams from Class V to XII. PSC and JSC, these two are at a very tender age of children. Pass rates are very high in these exams which help the ruling political party to stay in power because it gives an impression of a great leap forward in the education sector. But all these exams are doing little in advancing education and rather have created many problems with lots of undesirable effects.

First to mention is that practice of too many exams is against the basic objective of education, which is to earn knowledge and prepare oneself for a better performance in the real world. When examination becomes too many, the focus of a child diverts towards getting high marks and passing with good grades, neglecting his devotion to earning knowledge. It is high time our policymakers came to an agreement that earning knowledge in a true sense and passing exams with good grades is not the same thing, rather a lot different in many ways. Exams are important in education but not as important as we have made it in our schools and colleges.

Then there are two big problems of private tuition and coaching by school teachers and guide/note books, both of which the government has been trying hard to stop but failing continuously. In addition, question paper leak has reached an unprecedented level nowadays, which is happening even in class I and II. So the problem cannot be worse, being at the worst level already. There are other far reaching crises grown out of this problem such as depriving children of their childhood by cutting off their time for play and extracurricular activities.

Many teachers in schools take advantage of examinations and pressure for good results. They make a compelling situation for students to read with them in private or take part in coaching classes. This gives teachers extra income and so they deliberately maintain a mechanism of not giving full education in the class and making private and coaching classes necessary for students with extra payment. If there were not so much pressure of so many exams upon children, private tuition and coaching by class teachers with shirking their teaching duties in the classroom would come down to a great level.

Guide/note books are inextricably linked with national level school exams. If the PSC and JSC exams were abolished the only people who would have been harmed are the publishers and writers of guidebooks, no others. There is an unholy connection between the guidebook publishers and school authorities and teachers in making these books essential in the classroom.

At village level, teachers advise students to buy these books for making good results and some days later some even suggest buying another new set of these books to make better results. Students who do not follow the advice of teachers are looked down upon and psychologically harassed forcing them to surrender to their wishes. If there were not these national level exams, guidebooks would be unnecessary for children.

Question paper leaks occur because parents want their children to pass the exams and make good results by hook or by crook. Everyone knows very well that the education authorities care very little about what children have learnt through their education process except the certificates and the grades students have achieved. And like guidebooks and coaching, there is a business link here too. There are big and small people who make money by leaking question papers before exams. So without reducing the number of exams and its importance in a child's life, it is extremely hard to stop question paper leaks.

Copying also cannot be stopped without taking a very harsh measure while keeping this status quo of the education system which is too much burdened with examinations. It is quite unthinkable that question papers are leaked even in Class I and II and students at such an early stage cheat in exams. The exams, therefore, are playing a role in corrupting our children from their very early age. Our policymakers are looking at the problem from the wrong end of the telescope. It is necessary to mention here that in many developed countries there are no exams for children up to a certain level in school.

It is not suggested that there should no exam in school. Of course, there should be, but exams can be taken by the school authority itself without giving it a national significance and too much importance. Parents, teachers and students all have to give attention to real learning instead of focusing on passing exams and making good results. And real learning is not contained only in text books; it is in extracurricular activities, social and cultural programs and in books outside the curriculum. What the present education system does rather is destruct children's interest in anything except guidebooks and expensive photocopied notes supplied from coaching classes. Before all, however, policymakers have to be able to understand it first.                    
The writer is a commentatoron theater, education andsocio-political issues

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