Reform Versus Dreams: Preventing Student Failure


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Alarm bells are going across all educational campuses and boards as reports of students taking their lives and suffering from nervous disorders pour in. In a circular to his bureaucrats, the minister also pointed to the enormous stress levels faced by students appearing in the joint entrance examinations, especially for IIT and engineering colleges across the country. He has convened a national meeting of experts on March 24 to come out with "reforms in the examination system that is the order of the day".

Such is the urgency that Additional Secretary Sudeep Kumar Banerjee says,"We are looking to target the next year's examinations so that we can evolve a good system that tests a student's aptitude and not kill him. But his real test is yet to come-in April and May when he would be taking as many as eight entrance examinations for top-notch engineering colleges.


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His mother Sarita has taken a six-month break from her job as an executive in corporate communications to assist him in, what she calls, "trial by fire". In Bangalore, Dr A. Ebenezer, principal, Bishop Cotton Boys School, points out: "On the one hand exams are a necessary evil, like a barometer. On the other hand, there should be an attempt to move to assessments from classroom oriented projects, monthly or weekly checks. It is unfair to check a student's grasp of a year's study in just two and a half hours of exam, or finding out how much he knows by asking10questions at random from 36 chapters?

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In Pune, Cyrus Vakil, the chairman of the National Focus Group for Examination Reforms, says, "The Indian school boards are inappropriate for the 21st century needs especially where the knowledge industry is the key and everyone is looking for problem solvers. Unfortunately, our examinations cater to the lowest common denonimator. Worse still, the examiners do a shoddy job. Often, they do not go through the answer papers fully and award extraordinarily high marks.

The real reason for the enormous pressure is that all the 13 years of learning in school is crammed into a one-shot terminal examination that now has the capability of determining the entire lives of children. The problem is that Indian schools teach to produce outstanding students and the uniformity doesn't accept the average students but puts them through the same obstacles as the high performers do. As Nayyar says, "It would be terrible in the world if everyone stood first or everyone was outstanding. Advertisers bring dazzle, colour and movies to communicate their messages on TV.

It is a losing battle for a teacher trying to demonstrate how the Mughals ruled with a chalk and blackboard. This has now spread to regular arts and sciences colleges apart from newer vocational ones like design. In engineering, it has resulted in a profusion of coaching centres. Coaching institutes have cracked the code and it is who coaches you, how well drilled you are and how much money you spend on these classes that gets you in.


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It is not taking truly meritorious students anymore. Dube, director, IIT-Kharagpur, admits that the papers have got so tough that even many of the faculty cannot answer the questions. Other colleges like BITS Pilani have now begun conducting their own computer-based online examinations for applicants but have also stipulated that students must get 80 per cent plus in board examina-tions to be eligible. With growing protests from all the stakeholders boards are already thinking of major reform. We are even thinking of a mix of internal and external evaluation in key subjects," says Ashok Ganguly,C B S Echairman, C B S E, which has over 7, schools of all categories come under it.

There are plans to introduce a combination of 50 per cent for multiple choice questions that can even be corrected by computers and another 50 per cent for questions that test understanding and broad skills. To take away the strain from students from doing both sciences and arts for the Class X board examinations even if they don't like the subjects, the board is planning to grade examinations according to difficulty levels. Thus for a student not so proficient in mathematics he could opt for level 1 but do a level 2 for social sciences where his interest might lie in.

There is also a proposal to extending the grading system from Class VIII right up to the tenth standard and having no pass or fail criteria.

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Some state boards have already made radical changes. In Gujarat, the school board examinations saw the mark paper of Class XII divided into four parts marks for simple knowledge, and 20 marks each for usage, knowledge and application.

The Government reworked the system after doing a degree survey seeking the views of students about the performance of their teachers. Even teachers were made to appear through exams similar to that of Class XII. And surprisingly many of the teachers did poorly in the very subjects that they taught. Says P.

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Panneervel, Gujarat's principal secretary: "We want to ensure that students go to the exam hallwith enterprise and emerge with confidence. He points out that there is nexus between text books and examinations that has to be broken. Now students are expected to answer exactly as given in the textbooks giving no room for creativity. Professor Yash Pal, eminent scientist and chairman of the Steering Committee for Curricular Reform, says, "Technology has provided the means of recording and retrieving information at will.

It is stupid for us to want students to do that. We must make exams in such away that it does not bank on memory but emphasises thinking capability and understanding. In the classroom or home environment, similar practices will have significant benefits for children and young adults.

It facilitates growth from failures and successes alike. It is activities such as an AAR that provide the positive structure and framework within which students can truly grow and develop through their failures in order to enhance their successes. We have a responsibility to place our children in a position to grow and improve, instilling the importance of learning from failures.

This is essential for their academic and professional careers as leaders. We must ensure that they are educated to meet the demands of a complex and dynamic world. This new generation of leaders must be comfortable facing challenges in order to truly be successful.

The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the position of the United States Military Academy, the Department of the Army, or the Department of Defense. Keep me logged in Create an Account. Log In Search. Back Spotlight on Leaders. Facing Failure and Breeding Success.

Senior Advisor : Mr. Richard Barth. Vision Why Vision Matters. Learning Flat Leadership. Learning Defining Leadership Through Failure. Learning Mindset and Education Reform. You must fill out all fields to submit a letter. In rural high schools, college guidance is often inadequate or non-existent.

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Reform Versus Dreams: Preventing Student Failure Reform Versus Dreams: Preventing Student Failure
Reform Versus Dreams: Preventing Student Failure Reform Versus Dreams: Preventing Student Failure
Reform Versus Dreams: Preventing Student Failure Reform Versus Dreams: Preventing Student Failure
Reform Versus Dreams: Preventing Student Failure Reform Versus Dreams: Preventing Student Failure
Reform Versus Dreams: Preventing Student Failure Reform Versus Dreams: Preventing Student Failure
Reform Versus Dreams: Preventing Student Failure Reform Versus Dreams: Preventing Student Failure

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