Over the years, examinations have been used as an evaluation tool in learning institutions. Exams are meant to assess the extent to which learners have acquired knowledge and its application. From these assessments, schools develop a criterion of transitioning students to the next level of study. However, recent developments in the education sector have led to the emergence of a debate as to whether exams are an accurate measurement of students abilities.
Exams play a significant role in measuring the academic progress of students that are enrolled in a given program. Standardized tests, for instance, enable stakeholders in the education sector select students for different programs in higher institutions of learning. This criterion is based on the scores that each of the student's scores in the general examinations (Liong, 2014; Hyslop, 2014). As such, the model personalizes education as well as offers a uniform evaluation mechanism that allows academicians to guide students in relation to their future careers.
The numerical performance data that is obtained from examinations can be essential in guiding policy makers in matters relating to the standards of education in the country. A scrutiny of the performance of students in exams allows educationalists, parents, and teachers to foster accountability and quality in education (Liong, 2014). For instance, if a certain group of students fails to register a good performance, stakeholders may use the numerical performance data to address issues such as funding. As a result, accountability measures may be instituted to improve the education standards.
Despite the critical role examinations play in measuring the academic progress of learners, the mode of administration of examinations does not impart the right skills in the modern educational environment (Hyslop, 2014). Universal examination disadvantages those students in public schools that do not receive adequate funding. Although a considerable amount of literature suggests that funding has an insignificant effect on academic performance of schools, evidence indicates that insufficient funds may lead to lower standards when schools have limited access to funds for buying textbooks and other resource materials (Ehrenfreund, 2015). Since examinations are set from a particular area of study, some students may lack access to such learning materials, leading to poor performance. From this standpoint, students from well-equipped schools may perform better in standardized tests. This erodes equality and fairness.
Inadequate facilities and standardized examinations always conspire to work against the students from minority groups and those that have little grasp of academics. Every year, for instance, tens of thousands of students are denied diplomas for failure to achieve certain grades in high school exit examinations despite showing remarkable competencies in areas away from academics (FairTest, 2017). As a result, such students drop out of school, creating barriers to opportunity and employment. As Hyslop (2014) argues, the mentioned eventualities may motivate some of the affected students to engage in crime, thereby increasing costs on society.
Most scholars in the education sector agree that administration of examinations is an effective way of assessing the progress of students. However, when tests and grades are over-emphasized, undue pressure builds upon students and parents (Liong, 2014).The bar for achievement is raised from the parents and transferred to the students. Such pressure often causes anxiety among students especially when they are approaching the period of exams.
Anxiety may also result from the need to prepare for rigorous examinations. Students are often required to memorize voluminous amount of information. This pressure causes anxiety as the students struggle to store and use information within a short period (FairTest, 2017). Such mode of learning stores information on the short-term memory which is forgotten shortly after the examination. The damaging effect of rote learning is that students who score the best grades may not be the ones with more information on the whole relating to a particular subject. The mentioned situation is compounded by the fact that examinations take a few hours which are not enough to holistically evaluate the academic progress of learners (Hyslop, 2014; FairTest, 2017). In the end, students do not learn critical thinking and problem-solving skills which are vital in real-life experiences
How the Situation can be Improved
A modification of attitudes of parents, students, and teachers towards exams and examination grades can reduce the value attached to such style of education. According to Liong (2014), the mentioned groups should be encouraged to understand that exams and examination grades are not instruments for competition. Liong argues that the score of one student has got nothing to do with the performance of other learners in the same education level. The exams are only meant to assess the amount knowledge acquired at a personal level in a particular area of instruction. Such measures would discourage rote learning in schools.
States should also enact policies that encourage critical thinking skills and also nurture other skills outside academics. The implementation of the mentioned policies can be done through revision of the curriculum and duly introducing examinations that foster life skills as well as offer the students the chance to give open-ended responses to questions instead of the structured mode of evaluation that is common in most schools (Hyslop, 2014).Such approach will instill problem-solving skills that are essential in real-life encounters. Additionally, life skills should be emphasized to enable students that are weaker in academics to pursue other careers in life. Through this approach, schools can minimize dropout rates as well as increase transition rates to higher institutions of learning.
In conclusion, examinations in schools should not be abolished. This should be the case as exams enable teachers to assess the academic progress of learners and determine areas that need improvements. However, over-emphasis on examination grades has eroded the rationale of examinations. This problem can be corrected by modifying attitudes in regards to examinations and enacting policies that propagate critical thinking skills in our schools.
Ehrenfreund, M. (2015). When public schools get more money, students do better. The Washington Post [Washinton].
FairTest. (2017). Time to Abolish High School Graduation Tests. Retrieved from http://www.fairtest.org/
Hyslop, A. (2014). The Case Against Exit Exams.New America Policy Brief. Retrieved from http://s3.documentcloud.org
Liong, K. C. (2014). Improving schools: My "letters to the editor". Xlibris Corp.
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