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Date posted: January 2, 2012

Dr D Samba Murthy, M.D.
Govt. Homoeopathic Medical College,Kadapa.AP
Mobile : + 91 9440642609 

1. Introduction
The subject of examinations of such significance has become a point of discussion very often not only among the teachers but even among the students in the recent days and has become very controversial for varied reasons. With establishment of corporate college under the private sector the student orientation is changing gradually towards attaining highest possible marks in the examination system and the teaching orientation is also directed towards this. Under these circumstances the teacher and student must be guided to achieve the targets.

2. What for the examination system?
Broadly speaking the examinations are for the evaluation of the progress of the students and it is imperatively needed to measure the progress of any educational system. The level of knowledge of the learner is evaluated through these examinations and the learner must show that they have indeed learnt adequately what they are supposed to learn. Thus the examinations have assumed very significance in the any academic curriculum, both for the students and as well for the teachers.

Examinations also occupy a very important place in any educational system and have become a central pivot around which the whole educational system moves. The educational system including the preparation of the syllabus, preparation of curriculum, preparation of academic calendar, planning for the periodical assessment of the intellectual level of the student, preparation of the course material, methods of teaching and introduction of new learning methods and the most important is  developing the student community to meet the demand of employment potentialities. If it is not an exaggeration the examinations have determining influence on the whole educational system and the careers of millions of students across the globe.

Educators of all ranks across the globe have admitted that the educational system has over emphasized the passing of the examinations rather than the acquisition of the real knowledge and development of the abilities of the students. The current examination system has also influenced the teaching community to that an extent that the whole teaching system has reformed itself to gear up to meet the demand of getting the students some how to pass thorough the examinations and even to the extent of modifying the teaching or learning process and/or the methodology and gradually replacing from the System of Education to the System of Examination.

3. Aim of examination system – What do we intend to test?
The aim of an ideal examination is to measure the intellectual abilities of examinees.

The researchers and educational experts have concluded that the examination system is intended to test the intellectual abilities if an individual and these intellectual abilities can be can be classified into two categories.

  • Knowledge of facts, methods, techniques and principles
  • Abilities to understand, apply, analyze, synthesize and do creative thinking.

The researchers have also concluded that the present examination system is more centered on testing the abilities of the first category than the second category and therefore the students and the teachers have become more examination orientated and rarely find time to develop the other abilities, both at the primary level and higher level. 

4. What is the examination system?
The understanding and analysis of different stages of examination system will enable us to understand what the examination system is? And what is the role of the teacher and how a teacher can make or unmake the examination system and for the improvement of the students’ performance in the examinations.

The different stages of the examination system can be broadly dividable into

  • Paper setting
  • Conduct of Practicals
  • Valuation of papers
  • Scrutiny of papers
  • Tabulation
  • Review or revaluation

5. Drawbacks of the Present Examination System

a. Paper Setting
Paper setting is the most important and first step in the process of examination system. There must be no scope for the defective and inaccurate or incomplete questions.

The paper setters many times do not find time and interest to go through the syllabus prescribed for the respective examinations and this is the reason for the questions which are out of syllabus and many times unless the paper setter is an academically interested, often guided by the previous sets of question papers and thus we often come across the repetitive questions. The variation of syllabus from one university to another university is another major problem for the paper setters in the examination system. Due to this short falls in the system, students are often orientated in such a way that they prefer to go through the previous papers and the students are often get benefited by this technique and therefore less emphasis on the original study. Not to mention that even the teachers are oriented in such way.

Many times, the questions are often asked by one examiner as a short question while the same question appears as long questions in another paper, which make the student difficult to prepare and plan. For E.g. Write about Organon?  Life sketch of Hahnemann and so on.

In the given examples the questions are imprecise and incomplete. In the first instance to write on Organon, which is a fundamental book on homoeopathy, unless the student is guided by the correct question to what extent the examiner is expecting the answer to the question it very difficult and each examiner expects the answer in his/her own direction.

In the second instance, it is better to specify the precise part in the life sketch of Hahnemann rather than asking to write about Hahnemann, like the contributions of Hahnemann to the modern medicine, the Life of Hahnemann before the advent of Homoeopathy, or the life of Hahnemann after homoeopathy etc., which carry more reasonable answer and easy for students to answer.

The syllabus covered for the examinations often predictable by the teachers and as well by the students. In the sense students can safely ignore certain parts of syllabus without much damage of loosing the chance of getting higher rank. Even the teachers are making an emphasis on the important questions and giving guidelines accordingly. Unless the paper setters take a note of this point and design the question paper in such a way that all parts of the book are reasonably covered and the subsequent question paper should not be the replica of the previous papers.

b. Conduct Of Practicals
In most of the colleges the conduction of the practical examinations has become routine rather than a real test for the extraction of the intellectual abilities of the student. There are no clear guidelines for the conduction of the practicals and the amount of time spent on the each student varies widely in the sense the first students are asked tested more but later the level of testing gradually decreases, because of which the tail end students are often given reasonable marks rather then what they actually deserve.  

c. Valuation Of Papers
At present the valuation of papers is carried out by the most of the universities in the medical education, either in central method or at the respective colleges. The valuation by the respective colleges leads to lot of bias in the assessment of the performance of the student especially in the private colleges and students usually score higher range of marks in private colleges than in the government owned colleges.

In the system where, paper valuation being done at the same time along with the conduct of practicals, it is to be ensured by the respective university that separate time to be allotted for the paper evaluation otherwise the examiner are in the process of hurry to complete the procedure and are guided by the random means rather than clear evaluation of the answer scripts, to avoid any mistakes by the examiner.

d.  Scrutiny Of Papers
At present they is no system of scrutiny of the valued papers because of which the examiner is at the liberty or the freedom, in the process of evaluation of the paper rather than going by specific directions.

e. Review Or Revaluation
At present there is no system for the review of what is done by the examiner or the revaluation method in the medical examination system, under many universities. Though the introduction of the revaluation system may be cumbersome yet at the same time it is to be remembered that we have no right to spoil the fundamental right of the students to have checked his /her answer paper when they are confident of their performance. For the fault of the paper evaluator the student can not be made punished and it is not mention that many times student loose their academic year with one mark or two marks deficit, for which he/she has to wait one calendar year.

Many examiners are fond of doing the paper evaluation at faster speed to claim that they have examined maximum number of papers within the limited time.

f. Tabulation
Tabulation must be done very carefully to ensure that there is no error and necessary corrections must be made before the publication of results itself so that no scope is given to the student during re totaling.

6. Reforms the need of the hour 

a.Historical Perspective
Ever since 1871, when the first voice against the examinations system was raised to the present day many commissions and committees were formed and diagnosed the malady but no effective solution is discovered so far.

The first Indian University Commission in the year 1902 expressed the dissatisfaction over the examinations system and suggested drastic changes in the objectives of the examinations and the committee has painfully observed that “the greatest evil from which the University Education system in India suffers is that the teaching is subordinated to the examinations and not the examinations to the teaching.

The Radhakrishnan Commission in the year 1948 has remarked that “we are convinced that if we are to suggest any single reform in the university education it would be that of examinations”

The Kothari Education Committee in the year 1966, which dealt on the importance of examinations system reforms, remarked that “in the present system, the future of the student is totally decided by single examination at the end of the academic year, students pay minimum attention to the class work and teachers and do little home work or independent study and pay maximum attention for the final examinations”.

It is evident from all these that there is an urgent need for the reforms in the examinations system. With the little academic background and taking into the consideration of the latest guidelines of the University Grants Commission I have proposed the desired changes for the betterment of the examination system and for the improvement of the students performance.

The students’ performance in the examinations many a times depends not upon the depth of the subject but upon the paper setter, moderation, value, scrutinizer and some times on the tabulations. Therefore all these stages of the examination system need to be studied properly.

b. Paper Setting
This is the most important and first step in the process of examination system.

The paper setters must be well informed about the significance of the paper setting and the value of the question paper. For any fault in the paper setting like question out of syllabus, the individual must be made responsible. Alternatively the university should prepare a question bank by collecting the questions from the different sources and prepare the final paper, of course under the supervision of the respective subject expert to avoid errors.

The paper setters by the university should ensure that the questions are not repeated at least for the reasonable period so that students are made to read.  There must be clear difference between the short answer questions and long answer questions so that it will not lead difficulty for the students as well for the paper evaluator or the paper setter should submit the key what he is expecting from the student for the respective questions.

Different scales of marks for the different parts of the same question paper must be changed. Ex. Long answer and short answer questions carries independent marks and students often prefer to attempt first short notes where there is greater possibility for higher marks. Therefore there must be two separate sections or parts in the question paper for the long answer questions and short answer questions, so that the choice of option for the student does not arise.

The student should be discouraged on placing high significance for the memory and recollection of the subject rather should be encouraged to analyze the subject and the questions should be framed in such a way that they should be thought provoking and creative and should be discouraged on the system of selective questioning.

The teachers should also be discouraged from the system of selective teaching and concept of important questions though this becomes a part of any academic curriculum. The question paper should be a balanced one in the sense it should cover all the chapters allotted for that particular academic year and as far as possible the option like important chapters and unimportant chapters should be avoided.

The paper should be in such a way that it should aim at evaluation of the performance of average student to the intellectual student, that is the questions asked should give equal importance to the average, above average and intelligent students, but not a particular group.

The question paper must be strictly as per the syllabus prescribed and as per the model paper given.

The questions should be precise, clear and complete and should meet the level of marks allotted for ex. For short notes, the questions which carry long answer should not be given since it often lead ambiguity to the student and as well to the examiner to what extent the answer should be and how much marks should be allotted to the part of the answer given.

In case of short questions or the objective questions the question must be very clear and precise and should not have more than one answer, or if there is more than one answer the question must specify the scope of answer expected from the student.

The question paper should also specify clearly how many marks each question carries except in case where all questions carry equal marks.

Use of certain words
The paper setters are fond of using certain words frequently in the question paper like Discuss, state, compare and contrast, criticize etc., therefore it is worthwhile to understand these words thoroughly before using them. Certain words like comment, is an ambiguous word, because it means both write explanatory notes and criticize and should be used judiciously.

Words like define, enumerate, evaluate, interpret, name, outline or summarize, report state etc., are to be used for short answer questions rather than for the ling answer questions.   While words like Describe, discuss, explain, Illustrate, Justify etc., are to be used for the long answer questions.

c. Conduct Of Practicals
There must be clear and precise guidelines for the conduction of practicals and such instructions will enable a uniform and unbiased evaluation with no loss to the students, since the very practical examination many a times a biased one.

It is a welcoming gesture that certain universities are issuing guidelines related to the conduction of Practicals and such instructions will enable a uniform and unbiased evaluation with no loss to the students. 

i. Variability of students’ performance, importance of internal assessment
There are several factors, which can influence the level of performance of student in their examinations. Some of them are modifiable and some of them are non modifiable. The intelligence, socio economic status of student, family back ground, physical health, mental health, participation in extra curricular activities, role of college union, hostel environment, personality of the individual, influence of the teachers etc., which can all influence the level of performance of student in their examinations, for which no affordable solution is available. Only in the internal assessment the teacher can aim on these factors.

d. Valuation Of Papers
As per the UGC guidelines in respect of reforms in the examination system, the fundamental philosophy is that, “the one who teaches must evaluate”. But at present the system of paper valuation is being irregular, in the sense the valuers are not necessarily the teachers of specific subject of specific year, but randomly selected by the authority.
It is needless to mention that there are teachers in homeopathic education who are    confined as teachers for one year in one subject for varied length of period and by virtue they are made as paper valuers on account of the length of the service, which may result in injustice to the students, if the paper is of another year or so.

At present the valuation of papers is carried out by the most of the universities in the medical education, either in central method or at the respective colleges. The valuation by the respective colleges leads to lot of bias in the assessment of the performance of the student especially in the private colleges and students usually score higher range of marks in private colleges than in the government owned colleges.

In the system where, paper valuation being done at the same time along with the conduct of practicals, it is to be ensured by the respective university that separate time to be allotted for the paper evaluation otherwise the examiner are in the process of hurry to complete the procedure and are guided by the random means rather than clear evaluation of the answer scripts, to avoid any mistakes by the examiner. 

i. Central Valuation a boon or bane?
The first requisite for the central valuation is providing the written scheme of evaluation. At present there is no system of providing key for the valuation of the papers, which may amount in gross injustice to the students.

The key provided by the university or the chief examiner should give clear guidelines for the valuators, and must be in accordance to the most frequently refereed books and the key should also contains the additional information for the sake of the students with better performance.

Though many examiners criticize this on the point that the answer for the questions vary from book to book, but fact is that all the standard books offer the basic information eloquently to nearly 80– 85 % of the answer and the student is expected to answer this information basically and for an additional score the additional information, extracted from any other sources may be added.

Next the teacher who is sometimes unfamiliar with additional information or even the basic information, since in the present scenario in all homoeopathic medical colleges, there is no single subject teaching or mastery of the subject and teacher’s interest in the subject often plays an important role in the depth of the subject, therefore there is a chance for the error at the level of the teacher for which student can not be punished.

It is also to be ensured that when the same paper is given to different examiners the marks awarded by each examiner should not exceed the range of 10 to 15%. This is possible only when valuation is done as per the scheme provided by the university or the chief examiner.

Each examiner should be given only a reasonable work load and all the examiners must be given same amount of time for valuing the same number of papers and this is possible only with central valuation.

As far as possible the paper valuator must be the expert in the specific subject with reasonable length of teaching experience. And another interesting point in the Homeopathic medical colleges, one has to note that, the teachers are often restricted themselves in the teaching of one particular subject for particular year of BHMS, and therefore they depth of the subject is confined to that year only but the same teacher is empowered to be the examiner or the valuator for any year means the students are at the risk or the mercy of the examiners.

There must be certain amount of responsibility attached to the paper valuator so that for the mistake he/she committed, must be made responsible.

e. Examiners variability, a curse for the students
Under the reforms system the examination shall serve the following purpose basically. As far as possible there must be no scope for the subjectivity of the examiner. Examiners reliability has become very doubtful in the public examinations. That is the accessibility of students performance by the examiners varies widely.

Researches have shown that out of 90 examiners, who have been given single paper for evaluation, all experienced

  • One gave distinction to the examinee
  • Eight gave him first class
  • Forty one gave him second class
  • Thirty three gave him third class
  • Seven failed the examinee.

The evaluation of students’ performance by examiners, depends upon several factors, like, academic knowledge, teaching experience, subject depth, different angles how the answer can be viewed, the past experience of answering such questions, interest in the work allotted, personnel health and responsibilities and by and large the individuality of examiner etc.

The nature of internal assessment, external assessment varies greatly from teacher to teacher, college to college, university to university which results in injustice to the student community for the no fault of them. Therefore there is an urgent need for the uniform process of evaluation at least within the college and within the university which can be obtained by circulation of answer key to the examiners.

While awarding the marks seldom the examiners use the full marks i.e., though 100 marks are allotted for the examination the examiners does not give the range in 100. Many a times the highest marks secured would be between 75 to 85, which mean on an average each student is loosing around 15 to 25 marks for no fault of him/her. Since when the first rank itself is between 75 to 85 the lower rank student also loose the marks to that effect. This is very marked especially the medical colleges often seeking an excuse that it is very difficult to give full marks in the medical science. If this is the answer by the examiners, we as examiners should accept that we do not know the full answer. 

f. Scrutiny Of Papers
At present they is no system of scrutiny of the valued papers because of which the examiner is at his/ her liberty or freedom in the process of evaluation of the paper rather than going by specific directions.

There must be a supervisor for the valuers of the examinations only to emphasize the need for thorough care during the valuation. For any fault in the paper valuation the respective valuator must be made responsible in the sense only to ensure that he/she shall not repeat such things in the future.

g. Reviews Or Revaluation
There must be an authority to review and approve the valuation of the examiners, if necessary.

There must be an authority to recommend for revaluation of scripts in case of an erratic evaluation, since no harm should be done for the student at any cost.

It is to be noted that the honorable courts of different states have issued periodical judgments, related to the revaluation system to ensure that no loss is done for the student and the system of revaluation is introduced by many states at the level of higher education and intermediate education where there is large number of students and why such an attempt can not be made at the medical graduation level.

h. Tabulation
Tabulation must be done very carefully to ensure that there is no error and necessary corrections must be made before the publication of results itself so that no scope is given to the student during re totaling.

7. WHAT IS ALREADY DONE ON THIS?

a. Importance Of Internal Assessment
It is a welcoming gesture by the authorities of the some universities has reiterated the importance of internal assessment as well the periodical evaluation of performance of the students in the Practicals.

b. Preparation Of Question Bank
Some universities have also favored the concept of question bank, which will help in sharing the collective wisdom of the members of the teaching faculty not only in framing or structuring the questions but also in improving the quality of the questions. 

c. Introduction Of Semester System
The reliability of the annual examinations has become very poor. In the sense the level of testing the ability of the student through the only final examination is inaccurate or often difficult. Many times the able students receive poor marks and the students of equal abilities often receive marks of wide different. The method of annual examination system often depends on the recollection and the memory status of the individual rather than the intellectual abilities and the reasoning status of the students.

Proposal for introduction of Semester System in the academic plan, which is under consideration by the respective councils of the medical system, is a welcoming gesture since it makes the students to be more serious at studies and demands regular study throughout the year. 

8. WHAT IS TO BE DONE NOW?

a. Role Of Teacher
Having understood the different factors which can affect the students’ performance in the examinations and the levels of defects in the system it is desirable to look into the necessary remediable measures and what can be the role of the teacher in the improvement of students’ performance.

Someone has aptly described that the examiner (Teacher) to the examinee (student) is like heart to the human body. If the heart ceases to function the body collapses. As the malfunctioning of the heart can lead to heart attack, the malfunctioning of examiners can lead heart attack not only of the student but also to the controller of examinations or university.

As the law says, a culprit can escape from the punishment but an innocent can not be punished. Like wise the examiner can make or unmake the carrier of the student. It may be pardonable if an undeserving candidate get through the examinations because of erratic evaluation but it is unpardonable if the deserving candidate is failed.

If the examiner is failed to assess the performance properly the career of the student can be ruined.

The examiner must be well familiar with syllabus and the curriculum especially inn the homoeopathic education where there in no separation of teacher for the specific subjects, and the teacher.

b.  Role of University Or Authority
The examiner must be well familiar with syllabus and the curriculum especially inn the homoeopathic education where there in no separation of teacher for the specific subjects, and the teacher of . 

i. Establishment of an examination cell
There is an urgent need for the establishing of an examination cell at the university level whose functions are

  • Preparation of question paper
  • Checking up of the question paper
  • Any corrections before it went for distribution like in respect of ambiguous questions
  • Number of marks allotted to each question
  • Total number of marks of the question paper
  • Whether the questions are within the framework of the syllabus prescribed
  • If out of the syllabus what is the alternative etc.

For all these, the individuals should be fixed with the responsibility for any further eventualities.

Before any change is introduced in respect of examination system including the syllabus formulation, with which the teachers and students are unfamiliar, it is essential that the examination cell has to be taken into consideration and the students and teachers must be made known what changes are taking place in the system and what they need to do since ultimately all these changes are meant for the students only.

The examination cell job is to prepare the background for introduction of such changes in the syllabus or the curriculum. But at present in the Homoeopathic Medical Education, the reforms in the syllabus or the curriculum are not totally under the control of the university itself but under the governing bodies like CCH and MCI, however an effective representation can be made at that level in the interest of the benefit of student community. The cell may orient the teachers to that extent accordingly. 

ii. Establishment of a students’ cell / students’ representation
It is a fact that whatever the changes are proposed, either by the College, or the universities or the governing authorities, it is to be remembered that they are meant for the improvement in the education system means for the betterment of the students’ community only.

Therefore the students must be well aware or well informed what changes the authorities are proposing and necessary preparation time must be given to the students so that the basic object will be fulfilled. 

iii. Establishment of an Expert Committee cell
It is needless to mention that there is an urgent need for the establishment of an expert committee cell consisting of the not calendar year experts but actually subject-orientated experts.

The role of such cell is

To monitor the activities of examinations especially,

  • Preparation of answer key
  • Valuation
  • Moderation
  • Scrutiny of papers
  • Review and revaluation of papers, if necessary before the announcement of the results itself etc.

The members of the cell should be made responsible for errors or for any further eventualities. 

9. PHYSICIAN HEAL THYSELF FIRST
By separating teaching from learning, we have teachers, who do not listen and students who do not talk. (The courage to teach, Josey Bass)

As the above saying goes that the teacher must be trained or orientated periodically with the changes happening in the examination system as well in the teaching and learning methods.

The University Grants Commission has made a compulsion of such training and orientation at graduate level for the faculty even to get eligible for an annual increment and such orientation shall certainly enables the teacher to get familiar with the latest trends and therefore should be encouraged and made a compulsion of participation.

Teaching, learning and evaluation are interlinked, and improvement in one system cannot be achieved without corresponding improvements in others. Many changes are emerging in these areas from time to time and the authority should take a note of these changes and should be brought to the notice of the concerned. 

10. AN APPEAL
The feedback is considered to be the backbone for the future. The readers of this article are free to post their comments and suggestions to the author for the betterment of the homeopathic education.  

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