Today's Editorial

Today's Editorial - 06 January 2024

Need to examine the Examination System

“Your Transparency will lead to other people’s transformation” - Trent Shelton

Relevance: GS I and II (Social Issues and Social Justice)

  • Mains: Education System in India and associated challenges;

Why in the News?

The education system plays a crucial role in shaping educational standards and has a significant impact on the credibility of certificates issued by educational institutions. 

  • However there is a need for reforms with focus on transparency, fairness, and to ensure a credible examination process that helps in improving the quality of education.

What is the purpose of building a good Examination system?

  • A well-designed examination system evaluates students' knowledge, skills, and competencies acquired during their education, issuing certifications that demonstrate their academic achievements.
  • Through examinations, it identifies students' strengths and areas needing improvement, guiding teachers in customizing teaching methods accordingly which ensures fairness and credibility. By ensuring fairness and credibility in assessments, it fosters confidence among students, teachers, and the society at large in the education system's quality.

Decentralized system in India and its associated challenges:

  • Hallmarks of a good examination system: 
    • Secrecy and standardization are the hallmarks of good examination boards.  Secrecy without proper checks and balances and audits leads to scandals. 
    • Standardization through uniformity in examination kills experimentation in assessment and curriculum. Rather, the credibility of assessment and standard of education can be ensured only through transparency in teaching and assessment.
    • In educational institutions, the summative examination is to test and certify a student’s learning. Its validity over time and its comparability across institutions are meaningless today. This inconsistency in the examination system is cause for concern.
  • Imparting Practical Knowledge: 
    • An examination is supposed to have tested certain scholastic abilities, from memory to application and creation of knowledge and critical thinking. 
    • Often, there are complaints that the examination boards test only memory. So, teachers in turn coach students to memorize answers and score marks rather than teach them higher-order thinking.
  • Higher order of learning: 
    • There are many instances where we come across question papers with grave flaws such as language errors, errors in conceptualization, irrelevant questions, and questions that do not test higher-order learning. 
    • The evaluation of answer scripts is indiscriminate, and the grades do not reflect the differences in students’ learning achievements. 
    • The employability of a graduate depends on higher-order learning, while examination boards do not certify students on those skills. Our institutional examinations in India lack this.
  • Employment issues: 
    • Employers disregard institutional certification and have their rigorous assessment of a candidate’s academic achievements and suitability for employment
    • This in turn has created a coaching market for competitive examinations and skilling.

Assessment quality in India and its associated challenges:

  • Foundational issues: 
    • All regulatory institutions in India have an emphasis on outcome-based learning in institutions. 
    • Although there are elaborate advisories on curriculum design, pedagogy, and examination systems from all the regulatory boards, these advisories are hardly followed by educational institutions. 
  • Classroom quality and assessment issues: 
    • The syllabi of every graduate/diploma program will tick most of the boxes such as course objectives, expected outcomes, and even specifying the finer details of skills to be imparted. However, a careful reading of the syllabi will expose the inconsistency and inadequacies in them. 
    • Actual classroom teaching will not meet the requirements of imparting higher-order thinking and skills. Therefore, a transparent oversight model and greater involvement of professional bodies in curriculum design and teaching should help in establishing a proper assessment system. 
  • Maintaining secrecy in the examination process: 
    • Another important problem of assessment is the secrecy involved in the whole examination process, from question paper setting to evaluation of answer scripts and mark sheet preparation. 
    • Confidentiality is also a cause for scandals in examinations. The problem with larger systems is that they are prone to ‘malfunctioning’ and facilitate malpractices that make a mockery of uniformity and confidentiality.
  • Issues with Autonomic regulations: 
    • Regulatory bodies encourage colleges to go in for academic autonomy and certify their students based on their examinations. Still, the degrees/diplomas that are conferred are on par with all others by the affiliating university. 
    • Autonomy regulations give little oversight authority to the affiliating university on the autonomous college examination system. 
    • In a decentralized education system, confidentiality and standardization of the examination system matter little, but ensuring a minimum standard is essential. 
    • Transparency and proper oversight take lead roles in the examination systems to ensure this.

What steps need to be taken? (Way Forward)

  • Need for Participative and Transparent Assessment:
    • Academics in every branch of knowledge write on curriculum design, pedagogy, and assessment systems. There are subject-specific and skill-specific assessment processes. 
    • Though this system is often riddled with subjective and lenient assessment, proper documentation and real-time oversight with a participative process of students’ assessment of teachers should make it better. 
    • Summative assessment and evaluation should also be made transparent, with checks and balances.
  • Need to enhance Credibility:
    • The use of technology in assessment enhances credibility. 
    • The market provides a variety of software solutions to every aspect of assessment, for both centralized and distributed systems of assessment.
    • The setting of question papers can be standardized in terms of academic content, and evaluation can be standardized with checks and balances.
  • Need for Transparent Evaluation:
    • All sorts of negligence, fraud academic inadequacies and other quality issues should be codified, and corrective measures/punishment also should be linked to such codes. 
    • Transparency in accessing the evaluation process by students and measures to address their grievances should be in place.
    • An external audit of assessment systems in universities and school boards is essential. Such audit reports should cover all the processes based on established principles and benchmarks set by educationists. 
  • Need to build healthy Competition:
    • Grading examination boards in terms of transparency, reliability and consistency should be a part of audit reports. Such audit reports should be released soon after the completion of every major cycle of examinations, say as half-yearly reports.
    • We expect university degrees and school board certificates to reflect the learning achievements of students, and examination boards should assess students comprehensively, in a challenging way. 


While the confidentiality of the process and consistency in grading with uniform standards are desired features of examination systems, the real features are transparency in process and credibility by adhering to at least minimum acceptable standards.


Mains PYQs

Q. National Education Policy 2020 is in conformity with the Sustainable Development Goal-4 (2030). It intends to restructure and reorient the education system in India. Critically examine the statement.(UPSC 2020)

Q. Should the premier institutes like IITs/IIMs be allowed to retain premier status, allowed more academic independence in designing courses and also decide mode/criteria of selection of students. Discuss in light of the growing challenges. (UPSC 2014)

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