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Tuesday, September 30, 2014


continued from English Vinglish

                 EXAMS have a purpose, but is it served???

DISCLAIMER: This is a true insight into EXAMs in school.
                        Any resemblance is not a coincidence.
                        No animals, except sentiments of school loving                  beings were harmed during the making of this blog post.
                     The Internet, author or Blogger is not responsible for your child flunking in this term’s exam.
And there are only three reasons I write this post:
One, the exam period is nearing and I see my friends tired and exhausted-studying to get good grades.
Secondly, I had to write about something to take HOW I LEARNT LEARNING ahead…I found the time right
And lastly (this is gonna be funny!!!) -recently a photo saying: this is the guy who invented EXAM was circulating, or is circulating on a social networking site! Although I didn’t bother much with it- I glanced through the thousands of comments made by all types of people, in all languages-possibly teenagers or parents who could see how worked up their children are getting. Here are some of the comments:
May his soul never rest in peace!
If he’d alive id hit him so much he wouldn’t be able to recognise himself
And why the heck did he do such a thing?
Although, this may seem to be an article where I curse the guy who invented exams, and give a condemnation against exams; I am quite “with” Henry A. Fischel… yes, he is the guy.
My question is- What is the reason behind him inventing exams? Even if he didn’t and what I am talking about is a false rumour (as it always is!), yet the one or group or committee to have the examination system had a reason behind it. Everything has a purpose. Nothing comes into being without a purpose.
         So definitely exams weren’t made to be laughed at and cussed a century later on social media! It had been created for a reason, a reason we are unaware of! Nevertheless, its existence has a cause. It was created for the benefit of the students of course…if I know the reason someday, I’ll share it. But for now, I’ll tell you how difficult it was to take the decision of home-schooling, which would remove such an essential part of a child’s life in today’s society!!!---
       Exams, maybe the only reason for which, I, or maybe we, were sceptical about home-schooling. It would mean moving away and missing a complete experience.
For a typical childhood life, without that one thing called-EXAM is like a school without exams!! Confusing?
Definitely! If this system described in a line remains confusing, let it; because tons of chaos and disorder lies within!
From lesser place to write in evaluation papers to the amount of time given to complete it; from correction errors to all sorts of funny but unacceptable occurrences, I’d say.
Of course the pride and happiness of securing the highest, the joy of competing with friends and that feeling of giving an exam can’t be replaced. But then the sorrow of missing the highest by a mark, unhealthy competition and jealousy came along. And then again the cons were more than the pros… writing a paper with the knowledge that a teacher who pronounces PRONUNCIATION as PRO-NOUN-SI-A-TION is going to be the one who will be checking that paper is really bugging.
 (I don’t want to imply that SCHOOLING, EXAMS are bad for some it may be a good experience too.)
Exams were held almost daily-the continuous comprehensive evaluation (they took the word CONTINUOUS too seriously!!!). The feeling of giving it was secondary. Because prior to that was a tough and serious session of studying-mugging-or ratta mar as we call it…here there are three types of people-
Firstly, THE HARD WORKING AND DEDICATED CLAN- this was a very frequently occurring group-one in a million (frequent enough???). These ones got their rewards but these were the ones with maximum jealousy for others in their group. It was the highest in the ladder- if the school students had to be divided in a caste system. And this group had a majority of girls (not to mean much offence- ENVIOUS is the first adjective I give!!!). I was the only boy, along with a few others!
Secondly, we found an enormously large group of students who believed that whatever, however and how much ever they study, the tide wasn’t in their favour. They did a commendable job, however by sitting with books and reading and reading and reading but not just getting it right!!! They would usually get average marks.
They are hard-working, though- they make it a point to complete their writing work quickly- so as to impress the teacher in some manner. They impress the students belonging to the first group. And if the to-be-impressed is impressed than he will definitely lend his book to complete the homework(of course, the return ticket of the book isn’t finalised… and trust me one of the books that were lent to a student this week, from any school in the suburbs of Mumbai are lying in his bag even now!!! If not, I give you my GOOGLE password and intellectual rights to this blog!!! )
 And beware, these guys the ones who make the maximum, least productive and frequent questions to ask the teacher while she teaches. These questions have highly annoying effects- like any of these:

Yeah that’s possible

Count it in!!!
And then, we have a bunch of the most motivated students… motivated to never do what they are told to, and do exactly the opposite. These ones don’t get any rewards (now, what do you expect) they themselves don’t care what they get and how they do!!!
But then where am I? Of course, I believe, at least that I belonged to the first group. I was a topper- the characteristic scholar-silent, observant. But then, I was a human being-with errors, bad habits and also made mistakes. (OKAY! OKAY! I am a human being yet…) I would definitely be congratulated by my friends even before I attempted the test. I would be asked to give them a part of my brain (please don’t call me possessive because I didn’t) But for that I have something for you guys:

Hey dude Congratulations!!!
What?! We are yet to attempt the the test paper.So what? Anyways you are going to top with full marks!Really? You have more trust and confidence in me than I do in myself.Yes, I am. Also, I know that you know what is the third point of difference between…Renewable and non-renewable sources of energy, right? Of course, it’s that the non-renewable sources take a long to be replenished and the renewable…Ok I got it! That word “replenished” is so damn difficult to remember! Ok thanks and congratulations again!
Sigh! Sigh! Sigh!

            That is what the typical scenario would be like. I was quite sincere and would always be prepared for the exam a day before!

 So I would get good marks, usually the topper. My friends made it a point to say “Congratulations” even before I had attempted the test!!! Oops, go back, further, and further!!! Did I say “prepared for the exams a day before” and “topper”??? Yes, if exams are to be connected to any WORD, PHRASE or QUESTION, then these are one among the many! Honestly, if something could’ve made me not home school, then the adulation, appreciation and competition I got along with exams! But then again, questioning, decompressing and asking relevant QUESTIONS did the trick.
 At the moment, the first term exams are going on or are about to begin in a number of schools. I am sure there will be many of my friends who will be stressed out, some will get good marks and be applauded for and congratulated. But I never, ever feel that I am missing something by not going to school! And even if I go, then what for? And…I think the questioning can wait… first, I am going to voice my experiences-before exams, while attempting, the post-exam period and the aftermath.
Firstly, exams are considered to be the most taxing and stressful exercise for students. A day before the exam is like studying, reading, memorizing, practising. I am not sure of learning! I would be drained, exhausted, tired and was “even more synonyms of tired than MS Word can suggest!!!”Although, I would be quite sure of getting decent marks the next day, it would be a very taxing and strenuous job. First of all, the notes (questions and answers) for chapters would not be given. Moreover, the system demanded us to prepare for everything. Any question from anywhere from the textbook would be given. However we were never told how to attempt those questions and what kind of answer is expected. Especially, in English where the scenario was worse than any other subject: English Vinglish
The English papers would have two or three annotation sets. An annotation would be a dialogue a sentence from a given chapter. With reference to the extract, answers had to be written. And of course, who is the one responsible to give answers to the questions? The students!
I had seen many of my friends struggling to get answers for English annotations. However, no notes were given. I agree it would help us to improve our thinking capabilities. But at least the students should be given a rough idea as to how the answers have to be written.
I would easily be able to answer the questions, credit to my mother and her intensive training and exposure. I read books avidly so it helps me to formulate my answers. But I could also see my friends. Many of them would write irrelevant stuff and some would write a correct elaborate answer but marks would be cut for miniscule errors.
Marks, did I say? Yes, believe it or not marks are ultimately what rule the exams. No matter how well one has understood the subject matter and can also apply it, the answer that he/she writes is, according to the examination structure, the basis of what they’ve understood!!! Here’s an example:
Is “Aurangzeb was a pious person” any different from “Aurangzeb was very religious” or “Aurangzeb was a reverent devotee of god”??? No not all! But what the system demands is a Xerox copy of what is in the textbook! “Aurangzeb was a pious person” although the child has understood, ok, the Aurangzeb was a devout or in simple words…religious! So, even though the student has understood the crux of the matter, then why the same word and phrase and sentence required.
Secondly, even if he has to know Aurangzeb’s character, what is he going to do by writing a four marks answer? When is the next time s/he is going to meet Aurangzeb, or for that matter Lord Dalhousie, or King Pratap. Okay, I agree he has to have an idea of the past and present and future (who teaches time machines and talking robots???). But, do I need to prove to anybody that I know this or I am well aware of that. I wouldn’t mind lecturing my friends or mates on the Battle of Panipat, but I would hate writing it! And that is what the problem is. Students prefer writing picture perfect answers in tests and semesters but they shy away from speaking. (However, not all!!!)
Which archaeologist remembers the third answer to the second part of in the second class test of the second term of his seventh grade??? I don’t! But does it affect my life today? Is writing about something that happened two thousand years back more important than knowing that the Mangalyaan has reached Mars’ orbit? Yes, it may be an aide- as a weapon of knowledge, but what matters is how I apply. If I am going to talk like a humbling mumbling fool but have elaborate and loads of knowledge to share its futile. I can’t speak as if I am giving an oral take up for an answer.
 So, to put it straight it is not that I should not know about North America and its climate and wars that took place three thousand years ago; but writing a memorised answer that I am eventually going to forget within a fortnight is futile, according to me!
Coming back to preparations, I always felt, a lot of pressure while I was studying for an exam. Eventually, it would lead to me losing interest in the subject. It was like: I don’t care who Michael Faraday was, I don’t want to know more about this guy who is responsible for adding an extra brief answer to my syllabus! I just want to read this, memorise and forget it!!!
Now, does that make any sense to you, or to your two-year old niece, for that matter? So that’s how preparations went by-no interest, just exhaustive work, pointless practise and a toll on the health!
If the next I would see a single student carrying his/her bag to the room (where bags are to be kept….ooops, dumped) without a book in his/her her hand, I’d be compelled to know from which direction the sun had risen from…definitely, not the east! Students would open books and randomly turn pages. I too would do the same in times when I thought I wasn’t prepared enough.
When I sit back and think, I imagine, if I would be able to memorize an answer, which I wasn’t able to in the past 24 hours, in 2 minutes? This is elegant!!!
As the system believes that if children are seated together, they would copy! Cool! Students, at least the very talented friends I had, could and would copy from each other, irrespective of distances between them.
I was the one targeted the maximum times! “What’s the answer Shahen?” “Tell me I’ll give you a Cadbury in the lunch break” “please, please…” and all sorts of offers and deals!!! What I feel is, if one is going to answer for the other than what is the use of exams? Some teachers were stern enough to control the children as they became restless, once they were done with their test! However, some teachers were totally unable to do so. The students would take advantage! No more did the examination room look like one, but a “FISH MARKET”. The favourite word of all who visited the class, in an attempt to make the class silent!!!
The test papers, at least in the school I had been to, had very less space. It was a mystery, as to why supplements weren’t given! Nevertheless I managed with those papers for 2 yearsJ!!! The answers looked like a mess. An answer that required hardly half a line had been given three and the ones requiring 6-7 were also given three!!! Fortunately, I had tiny handwriting style, so my answers would fit in claustrophobically. Nevertheless, some of my unfortunate friends, had potato sized writing styles…so a two minute silence for them!!!
Once the papers were given everyone would rush back to their classes. The reactions would be like:
Student 1: hey, what did you write for that one? Nitrogenous wastes?
Student 2: Oh gosh I wrote something else! NON- Nitrogenous???
Student 1: Thank god I changed it at the last moment
Student 3: I am going to fail. I didn’t even touch the books yesterday
Student 4: No that’s not the right one I bet you!!! I’ll show you when we reach the class! You come along.
Student 1: I’ll lose a mark in objectives! And the answer you told , let’s check it out!
And the one who weren’t interested:
You saw the movie FINDING FANNY it is superb!
Hey! Did you play smash hit! That game is awesome
What did you bring for the short break?
No doubt somewhere not bothered how much marks they got. They weren’t bothered with competition. Before I move on to the Exam results and reactions, I’d like to tell you something about the by-products of exams! Yes, you read it right! It is a by-product caused due to examination system prevailing in schools! In the types of competition I’ve witnessed, here are the two types:
Healthy Competition & Unhealthy competition.
Unhealthy competition comes out of jealousy and and envy. It is quite prevalent and causes a lot of people to lose friendships and important relationships! This unhealthy competition makes one lose trust in the other. I have experienced this, a lot of times. Some of them do not return with a simple thank you, if I congratulate them for whatever the reason. Some may tease.
However, there is a thin line between teasing out of affection and teasing to put the other person down. Teasing beyond a certain limit may appear to be the latter, although you may not mean it.
Coming back to unhealthy competition, one may go beyond limits, to get back to you. I feel it, and shall honestly tell that some would actually behave in a very rude and ungrateful manner towards me. The ones doing this were usually the ones who were toppers. Apart from that they couldn’t take competition from a new entrant. Here, I point out that not all toppers behave in such an untoward manner. Very few of them became friends.
However, some remained neutral-they maintained competition, acted with dignity but did not become too friendly. Nonetheless, this is a much better behaviour. These are the ones who maintained healthy competition.
Competition is everywhere. There is no field, work or place where competition doesn’t prevail. It is a key to progress of a society. Although, exams are created and competition is created, very few truly know how to handle competition. In life there will always be times when there is a race where everyone gets to the top. But it’s about getting to the top. Not pulling others down. We have seminars on fire evacuation, sports, general knowledge, talks on things like CAPTIVITY which no one has ever experienced(if getting stuck in the elevator is being a captive, then I have experienced it thanks to the wonderful lifts in school!) !!! I wonder why there aren’t any workshops on stress management during exams or conduct to be maintained while facing competition!

                              The Results are Out!!!

Definitely! Finally, the results are after what seemed to be like millennia.
No hero in any Hindi film has to wait for the heroine for as much time a child has to wait for his papers to be corrected.
So, once our results are out after a twenty five thousand three hundred and sixty eight years, I experience varied reactions! The Class, in which the corrected exam sheets are distributed, is the only place, where you will find everything. Happiness, ego, crying, laughing, praying, giggling, sorrow, pain, anger, satisfaction, dissatisfaction, bonhomie, COMPETITION! All in one room!
While I was a part of school, the results day were always exciting. My stomach would tickle. I would await my roll no. I was always confident. I never  cried even if I got ‘not so great marks’… only once, when I had got seventeen in a geography test in the sixth grade, I had cried like a baby! Now, I laugh when I think about it and realise how stupid I was!!! But that are results for us.
But that was the last time. I had cried out of disappointment. Although, 17 out of 25 is not a very bad score, but for me to get those marks was depressing. I had never expected myself to get that low! The next one and half year, on two or three instances, I got lesser than 17, but had never sobbed. I had learnt to cope with failure. With failures I would set targets for the next time I face a situation. However, let’s get back to assessment marks and responses that came along!
the ones who had achieved what they had expected, would be happy. They would smile broadly. Some of them would take their papers and look at it with glee and satisfaction. The long wait would usually make me very curious to know how I had fared.
If the results would be on dot or in the range of the target,  it was shown with a sigh of relief and a faint smile! Here, I am talking about an average ranking…

However, there were some who were opposite to this clan. They would be the ones getting marks, more than they had expected from themselves. So, if they had thought of securing mere 15 and end up with 20 or more, they would be pleasantly surprised. This expression was clear from their facial expression…wide eyes and a “yippee!!!” however, this case was as rare as a road without potholes in my city!
Thirdly, some students were there who would get less than what they had expected. This happened to me quite a number of times. Although the margin of difference would be a mere ½ or 2, some would get five to ten marks less then what was expected! This would usually happen with those who were over confident and had airs about their brilliance. But this would cause them to get very depressed and sad. This was easily visible L -the tensed brows and half open mouth showing utter disappointment!!!
And then we arrive on a topic called “DOUBTS” Doubts??? Yes, once the papers were given each child, would come (one by one in case of a strict teacher, and in swarms in case of a lenient teacher!) to the teacher. They would ask as to why were my marks cut here? OR Why did you not give me marks over there?
 Usually these complaints weren’t accepted because they would be incorrect or the answer written was irrelevant, according to the teacher! Some, however, were corrected instantaneously…and some would go for correction in the first term and given at least by middle of the second term! Efficiency and speed, uh…?  
What really irritated and bugged me was that, although I and some of my friends would come out on the top, we wouldn’t be appreciated! Some teachers would say “Well done!” or “Good Work” and some would make the class clap for the toppers. But this wasn’t the appreciation or felicitation for the ones who showed improvement! Nothing for the ones who excelled! Nothing for the ones who deserve to be known for their hard work…maybe among a mere 2000 school mates, but it is necessary for the moral development and confidence of a child!
If I sit and think, what is the importance of me giving an exam? I study, memorize, write, wait for papers, get results, be congratulated by two of my friends, and then file the paper…as a memory of life! As if at 80 I am going to open this file that is broken due to the tonnes of papers inside and say “Ah! The good ol’ school days!!!”
I felt confused! Why was the focus on:
The dull students would feel bad if the toppers are felicitated in front of them
The “DEFAULTERS” should be talked about daily on the mike, but no; the students doing well shouldn’t be acknowledged even once!
Sometimes I felt being an insincere, lazy and stupid child in the school was better than being a sincere, hard working intellectual! That’s what any good student feel…he loses his dedication, determination and would not want to put in so much effort…if s/he isn’t even going to be appreciated once for his work!!!
So, I’d end this year. I thank mom for this article. She was adamant and made sure I wrote it. When, I started this earlier, I just couldn’t build it and now I feel as if I have written so much!!! Nevertheless, I have poured out all that I had to say! By for now!

                  From The Same Series...
How I Learnt Learning...
Good Morning Continues...
~Let's All Assemble~
All Assembled, Now The Suffer Begins...
English Vinglish

                                           Attempted by: Shahen Pardiwala (please don’t make me wait for decades for your comments! It was better than any test you attempted!!!)
                                           ©Shahen Pardiwala. All Rights Reserved                                                                           

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