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The current trend of evaluation is pushing students towards Cribbing

by Vijay Garg
0 comment 4 minutes read

By: Vijay GarG
Examinations have hardly been a true reflection of a person’s creative, collaborative, social, and critical thinking skills. It is a marks-driven, goal-oriented, socially accepted norm that is losing its importance, every time we are moving away from essay-type questions to short, very short, and multiple-choice questions (MCQs). The National Education Policy 2020 attempts to move from rote to competency-based learning, inculcating creative and critical thinking capacities in students to meet the challenges of the 21st century proactively. While the goal is ideal, the current road to this goal isn’t.
With more weightage being put on MCQs and objective-type questions and less on long answers, we are only pushing the learners towards a convergent thinking process. While such MCQs set on real-life, out-of-textbook situations sound fancy and are objective, does it bring out creativity and critical thinking in learners considering the kind of objectives that are set at the school level?
With the post-graduate and final-year medical students being required to join the Covid squad, do we realise that the real exam is in the implementation of our knowledge? Given the novel challenges arising each day, do we appreciate the need for research and innovation or at least developing the knack for it?  Ideally, research-oriented thinking should be inculcated as early as school level to address these challenges.
Objective-type questions and MCQs do not evoke or assess creativity in students unless we ask for a justification for the responses.  Although for science and mathematics, there is a higher scope of objective-type questions such questions do not keep room for elucidation, novelty, innovation, and creativity. MCQs especially restrict insightful thinking.
Every individual has a unique way of approaching a problem and arriving at the solution. Any number of options in MCQs is insufficient to take into account all the possibilities in which such a large number of human brains attempting that question can arrive at a solution. Only an explanation of the answer can bring out such diversity. To evaluate the approaches should be more important than evaluating the answers themselves. MCQs limit creativity at large.
Plagiarism, copy-paste, cheating are practices that have not been strongly addressed in India, and with the current trend of evaluation, we are pushing students more towards these unethical practices. We have normalised the use of Google-searched information in projects, where students are simply trying to circumvent the process of literature review, experimentation, and critical engagement with texts. It also falls upon us to frame questions in a manner that rules out copy-pasting, that lets the learners know what plagiarism is and why it should be avoided.
Online exams are adding to the difficulty of conducting fair exams and eradicating copy-paste and rote learning since we have very little control over the adoption of unfair means on the part of the students. An exam will be true to its purpose if it requires students to arrive at answers organically through critical thinking and creativity while incorporating knowledge acquired from lectures and textbooks. Towards that, essay-type, research-based, and open-book exams must be introduced in school education.
The pandemic was a great opportunity for the evaluation system to change for better in India. We should have shifted from asking “what do you know about” to “how do you know”, “design an experiment” or “conduct a survey”.
Exams are getting postponed and cancelled at several levels due to the pandemic. This is the right time to engage students in research, nurture their abilities to write a research paper, and orient them towards research-based learning. Such research does not always require technological infrastructure. For learners who are in remote villages, their natural surroundings can act as a data resource for all subjects. And if we are still bothered about “who has topped?” the best few papers could be published by the institutions. This should start right at the school level.
Hopefully, one day we will accept that everything cannot be explained in a “nutshell”, life is not all about “choices” and we cannot always be “objective” in our approach. To instil the 21st-century skills in a learner requires us to challenge them more and not undermine their capabilities to score even when they are made to tackle descriptive thought-evoking questions.

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