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Concerns Over Existing Examination System

  • 10 Jan 2024
  • 6 min read

For Prelims: New Education Policy 2020, National Testing Agency (NTA)

For Mains: Challenges in the current examination system, Issues Arising Out of Design & Implementation of Policies

Source: TH

Why in News?

In the ever-evolving landscape of education, the examination system plays a pivotal role in shaping learning outcomes and determining the credibility of academic certifications.

  • However, recurrent scandals, inconsistent standards, and a pervasive focus on rote memorization have raised concerns about the effectiveness of the existing examination system in India.

What are the Concerns Regarding the Existing Examination System in India?

  • Credibility and Educational Standards:
    • Scandals during examination seasons impact the credibility of examination boards.
    • Lack of credibility affects educational standards as teaching aligns with examination patterns, often promoting rote learning.
  • Short-Term Memorization:
    • Midterms, semester exams, and unit tests provide a lighter schedule but encourage short-term memorization.
    • Students often study for marks, forgetting the learned content soon after exams.
    • Education should focus on long-term learning, internalizing knowledge rather than short-term memorization.
      • The system needs to be practical, testing students' abilities effectively.
  • Assessment Quality:
    • The validity and comparability of the summative examination across institutions are meaningless today. There are complaints that examination boards test only memory, leading to students being coached to memorize answers rather than develop higher-order thinking.
      • Additionally, question papers often have grave flaws such as language errors, irrelevant questions, and errors in conceptualization.
    • The examination system is prone to cheating and malpractices, such as copying, leaking, impersonation, etc.
      • This undermines the credibility and quality of the assessment and the education system.
  • Decentralised System:
    • India has numerous higher education examination systems with diversified modes of assessment, including 1,100 universities, 50,000 affiliated colleges, and 700 autonomous colleges.
      • The total student enrolment exceeds 40.15 million, showcasing the vastness of the higher education sector.
      • Additionally, there are 60 school boards for secondary and higher secondary education, certifying over 15 million students annually.
    • Secrecy and standardization are considered hallmarks of good examination boards, but secrecy without proper checks leads to scandals.
    • Uniformity in examinations, while seeking consistency, can hinder experimentation in assessment and curriculum.
      • This poses a notable risk to the credibility of education. Balancing standardization with room for innovation is essential for a dynamic and effective education system.
  • Impact on Employability:
    • Employers rely on their assessments rather than institutional certifications for evaluating candidates.
      • The emphasis on higher order learning is crucial for employability, yet institutional examinations often fall short.
      • This in turn has created a coaching market for competitive examinations and skilling.

What Steps Can Be Taken to Address the Challenges in the Examination System?

  • Ensuring Learning Outcomes:
    • Specify minimum standards of learning outcomes to provide a clear benchmark.
    • Encourage academics across disciplines to contribute to curriculum design, pedagogy, and assessment systems.
  • Subject and Skill-Specific Assessments:
    • Incorporate subject-specific and skill-specific assessment processes to ensure a comprehensive evaluation.
      • Expect university degrees and school board certificates to truly reflect the learning achievements of students.
      • Advocate for comprehensive and challenging assessments that distinguish students based on their academic attainments.
    • Emphasize continuous assessment throughout the course, with teacher involvement and student participation.
    • Make summative assessment and evaluation transparent by implementing checks and balances.
  • Leverage Technology for Credibility:
    • Utilize technology in assessments to enhance credibility, standardizing question papers and evaluations.
    • Explore market-available software solutions for both centralized and distributed assessment systems.
  • External Audit of Assessment Systems:
    • Conduct regular external audits of assessment systems in universities and school boards.
    • Establish benchmark principles and standards for audit reports, ensuring reliability and consistency.
    • Grade examination boards based on transparency, reliability, and consistency, reflecting these aspects in audit reports.
  • Transparency Measures for Students:
    • Implement measures for transparency, allowing students to access the evaluation process and address grievances.

UPSC Civil Services Examination, Previous Year Question (PYQ)


Q. Which of the following provisions of the Constitution does India have a bearing on Education? (2012)

  1. Directive Principles of State Policy
  2. Rural and Urban Local Bodies
  3. Fifth Schedule
  4. Sixth Schedule
  5. Seventh Schedule

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 3, 4 and 5 only
(c) 1, 2 and 5 only
(d) 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

Ans- (d)


Q1. How have digital initiatives in India contributed to the functioning of the education system in the country? Elaborate on your answer. (2020)

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