Holding tests for assessing the suitability of anyone for a particular purpose is the most prevalent practice in India. Here the word test refers to the assessment tools other than the routine examinations in the formal education system.
For everything starting from seeking admission in the education system to securing a job, these tests keep on bothering. At times, after passing certain classes and possessing the certificate, diploma, degrees, etc. it is felt that repeated testing questions the very sanctity of the regular class examinations held for award of certificates, diplomas, or degrees. Unequivocally, subjecting individuals to testing for similar capabilities as carried out by the formal education system for the award of a particular certificate, diploma, degree, etc. raises doubts on the credibility of the teaching-learning-examination-evaluation processes. The moot point is the trustworthiness of the marks awarded to anyone based on examinations conducted by a particular Board, Institution, University, etc.
For many decades now, frequent concerns about the poor employability of students, their skill sets, and competencies have been raised and discussions buzz around about the modalities of the corrections to improve the learner capabilities. But, the situation does not seem to improve.
With the size of the education system growing gradually for attaining the higher gross enrolment ratios at every level, the precarious education system is endangering the lives of a large number of individuals who proudly display the certificates but are unable to prove their corresponding worth.
Who is to be questioned for it? whether institution granting certificate or the student?
Indisputably, no one can doubt the innocence of the students seeking admission in the first class of their formal education process, maybe at the pre-primary level or primary level. This means the innocent ones getting into the formal education process are either not provided ample opportunities to learn and perform well or the students themselves are circumstantially coerced for not being able to do so due to the poor socio-economic conditions of their families.
Eventually, the children grow biologically, as well as class up-gradation academically devoid of commensurate growth in their capabilities. The inculcation of learning deficiencies at the school level has cascading effect and vitiates the quality of the whole education process and learning outcomes. Consequentially whenever the assessment of capabilities of an individual is to be done, the assessors observe competency gaps and find the education credentials incongruous. As a result, the only available way out is to hold a test and re-assess the learning levels. Tests for opening every future door are tempting students to reorient their studies to target the respective test instead of upgrading themselves conforming to the respective level of formal education. Tests are catalyzing students for preparing in a limited domain and defeat the purpose of formal education. It goes without saying that the credible examination-evaluation processes and sacrosanct grades awarded based on them will eschew the frequent learning assessment tests.
Ailing Education providers
Currently, the Indian education providers at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels are either in the public sector or in the private sector. However, there are examination boards in control of public authority for terminal examinations of primary and secondary levels of education. The tertiary education system has a sizeable number of private higher education institutions (HEIs) in the form of Universities or deemed to be universities that are statutorily entrusted with the authority to issue degrees based on their examination-evaluation system very similar to the public sector Universities and Institutions. Nevertheless, the broader framework of imparting higher education is prescribed by the regulating bodies in control of the public authorities, but the micromanagement of teaching-learning-examination-evaluation processes is carried out by the HEIs themselves. Therefore, HEIs are responsible for the credibility of degree certificates from the adequacy of learning level quantification perspective.
Among the primary and secondary level education providers, the public sector institutions have slided below the private sector education providers for the sole reason of the quality of academic processes carried out by them. The instances of poor quality teaching in government-controlled primary & secondary schools are ubiquitous, for which teachers and enabling factors are jointly responsible. In most cases, the contractual teaching in such institutions on low wages is unable to keep them motivated enough to effectively nurture the children taught by them. Also, the poor governance of public sector institutions worsens the situation and affects the public perception about them. This has culminated in the mass demand for primary and secondary education in private schools, where too the quality of education is not upto the mark in the majority of instances despite over-regulation and stricter governance based on performance. Again the meagre compensation to teachers their inadequate quality and job insecurity diminish their motivation and lessen the prospects of better quality education deliveries inspite of student success linked career prospects of teachers.
The shift in focus from learning and seeking knowledge among learners can also be attributed to their myopic aim of merely getting through with good performance in entrance tests for certain career courses.The reduced interest of students in formal education also makes the education providers complacent in imparting education. Thus, it is not the teachers alone to be blamed for the meshy state of the formal education system which fails is examining students credibly.
The examining boards quantifying the learning outcome in the form of student grades are not accepted at face value. The pattern of examination requires reworking for assessing knowledge to align the education system for updating and training young minds accordingly. Circumstances are to be created for the students to get motivated and learn holistically.
Coachings as spoilers
Country is witnessing tutoring for every test whether it is for admission in higher classes or employment. The insufficient capacity addition in the schools/colleges/universities is prompting students to resort to getting trained specially for cracking particular tests in coaching institutions. Presence of coaching as an option to overcome the gaps induce students to rely more on it rather than the formal education providers.
Imagine if there is a complete absence of coaching, then the students will be persuading their teachers and institutions for ensuring that teaching-learning processes are apposite to meet the forthcoming challenges. Undeniably, the coaching establishments are doing a commendable job of taking care of student requirements in limited bandwidth of specific test requirements, but the same is engendering the lackadaisical approach in all enablers of the formal education system and the absence of balanced learning is degrading the overall potential of students.
Role of Regulators
Regulating bodies in the education system of the country are rarely inclined to delve into the regular teaching-learning activities. Their role is primarily confined to according sanctions to the institutions, courses, programmes, standard-setting, and creation of a model framework for the functioning of institutions. The pointers responsible for assessing the institutions for their sustenance have no bearing on the credibility of education offered by them. Moreover, it is not their job to do micromanagement of the institutions but they need to devise a mechanism for mandating the students and institutions together to improve the learning levels and abilities of students so that the terminal examination outcome helps in getting rid of multiple tests for similar kind of assessments. Let the marks obtained be used for all purposes of assessing students which may require moderation in view of slight variations from board to board and university to university. The recent pronouncement of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) for holding test for mid-course assessment of the learning levels and employability of engineering and management students studying in institutes approved by it is pointing towards regulator jumping into the in-course assessment of student learning. Such interventions may not serve the purpose as it is the institution that has to take a call and improve the overall education delivery and make their assessment tools foolproof and realistic indicators. Mid-course assessments are already done by the institutions through their routine examinations and the same require strengthening.
The poor reliability of scores obtained in terminal examinations is leading to re-testing of students for gauging their proficiencies and unless the terminal examination assessment of examining boards, Universities, and Institutions becomes credible, it is not possible to get rid of tests-tests-tests.
(The views expressed are personal)