Certificate Distribution Centers (CDCs)?
Are our schools and universities primarily serving as Certificate Distribution Centers? Yes. And that happens when educational institutions aim merely to help students get high scores, when teachers teach students just to enable them to get through exams, when students go to schools and colleges mainly to get certificates.
Nepalese education has always overemphasized examination and under-emphasized learning and education. Exams are held mainly as periodic rituals. Of course, exams can serve legitimate educational purposes. But if education merely aims at giving away certificates, why invest so much of effort, funds, resources and time into it? Why not just open educational institutes that confer degrees to students in three days: first day for admission, second day for filling up forms and third day for distributing certificates that are as good as the students demand? That would be very “loktantrik,” wouldn’t it? Such a democratic education would require no teaching, no hassle.
So, exams can be used well–as when they are used as teaching tools–or they can be used badly–as when they are given for passing or failing students. Unfortunately, we seem to have done the latter very well. Thus, the million dollar question that we need to ask is: how do we use exams to serve the larger purpose of genuine education? We certainly cannot get rid of exams. Despite criticisms, exams survive and are bound to exist in education for some time. Then, what are challenges and what could be their feasible solutions? There is a whole lot of exam related issues in Nepalese academia that are waiting to be tackled. For instance, most of the exams that are taken at almost all levels of our education demand nothing but memorization and reproduction. Students either commit contents to their memory or carry “guess papers” into examination rooms. There is little space in the currently system for students’ creativity and critical abilities. Tests writers hardly receive any orientation on what is to be tested and how students should be tested. Likewise, examiners never receive any training on how to mark the papers. Without any doubt these practices have harmful effects on education and ultimately on society. It is high time that we address the problem of our education systems’ overreliance on exams.
The posts in the May issue of NELTA Choutari address those testing and language testing issues in Nepal with a very insightful interview and a few articles. The interview by Professor Tirth Raj Khaniya, a testing expert discusses a number of significant issues about testing practices. Similarly, the article by Dr. Ram Ashish Giri, another well versed expert on language testing who now works in an Australian University argues that it is extremely regrettable that while tests are the cheapest but influential tool to reform academia elsewhere. He also proposes to develop an explicit English language education policy to bring changes in the existing problematic English language testing situation in the country. In his article, Suresh Shrestha argues why cheating is tending to have moral grounds in today’s contexts. Please do not go after my words, read yourself to find what they have to say and please do show your acceptance or dismissal through comments. Last but not least, Exams, Academic Writing and Nepalese ELT by Shyam Sharma proposes academic writing as an alternative to tests, tests, and tests that the Nepalese ELT as well as the entire education system is submerged in.Sajan Karn Editor NELTA Choutari