- Are they real test of intelligence?
Examinations have become a very important and essential feature of our academic institutions. Indeed the institutions will be meaningless without examinations. The work of students is now determined by their success in examinations. Students in our country are almost obsessed with the fear and anxiety associated with their examinations. So grave is their concern and outlook on examinations that some seek their graves when they fail. Examinations have become the greatest stumbling block to the normal and healthy development” of our youths. There is an unnatural excitement and feverish haste of preparations before a few days of the examinations and young men and women spoil their health and appetite by overworking and under eating during the days of the examinations. And when at last they are over, the students forget everything they have feverishly read and become blank in their minds and memories. For nothing can be remembered and used which is not attained by a slow and systematic assimilation. In short, examination, as they are conducted in our schools and universities, are a nightmare to our young men and women we are very much obsessed with the idea of success in examinations, preferably in first or second divisions.
This outlook on examinations is understandable, if not excusable. Examinations bring degrees and diplomas to successful candidates and these bring jobs and careers to them. The greater the success the more lucrative the jobs they get. This is the reason why examinations are regarded with such keen and anxious interest. They are a passport to employment. But the irony of this system is that jobs are limited while there is no limit to the number of examinees. That is why after some time, as at present, passing of examinations increases the number of the unemployed.
Are examinations a test of intelligence? This is a question. which is very often discussed. Do our successful youths possess more intelligence than those who fail or do not take any examinations? From one point of view, it may be answered that examinations are not a real test of intelligence. The reason is that the passing of examinations depends upon a number of factors which are accidental. For example, a brilliant student might fall ill during examinations and get low marks or even fail. Shall he be called dull when he fails thus? On the other hand, an ordinary student might by chance read and remember some questions which happen to be set in the examination. Such a lucky coincidence might bring him a first class. Shall we call him more inteligent? Yet again, the questions set in examinations are mostly textual and wholly academic in interest. They have rarely any relation to the realities of life. As such, the answering of these questions is a matter of sound memory rather than substantial reasoning and intelligence. One who has thoroughly mastered the texts prescribed has a fair chance of getting top position in the tests. But we know that such an ability is not real intelligence.
We often observe that the most brilliant students are not the most successful in their later careers. Why is this so? If examinations were test of real intelligence, such students should be most successful. On the other hand, the so-called dullards and dunces, those who never’ did well in their classes or tests, very often turn out to be very successful in their life. They earn more money and become more socially prominent than the so-called first class scholars. Obviously, life demands qualities of the mind which are not fit to bring success in examinations and vice versa. Those who fail in schools succeed in life and those who succeed there, very often fail in life. Life is a more difficult test than the kinds of examinations that are currently conducted in our country.
All this, however, does not mean that examinations by themselves are no good. Some types of tests and examinations are always necessary and the only means of measuring the standards of individual attainment. Until, therefore, we find better alternatives for the present system of examinations, we cannot do away with them. Now what are the alternatives? Several measures have been suggested. For example, making examinations monthly and fortnightly instead of annual and terminal only. This is a good suggestion. A student’s progress is better assessed if and when he is subjected to frequent tests, say every fortnight or month. The real merit of the student should be judged by the consistent and continuous progress of his studies in the class. A record of his work kept thus will be a real test of his substantial development. Otherwise, students do not study in the major part of their academic life and feverishly prepare for examinations a week or month before the examinations.
Secondly, the system of lectures should be supplemented by practical and tutorial classes. That is to say, some sort of pressure should be exercised in order to make students do active and, substantial thinking. Reading and listening to lectures is mostly passive attention and as such the creative powers of students are not well developed in such a system of lectures. Examinations will be less artificial if tutorial classes are properly conducted and the records of students maintained.
Thirdly, the system of prescribing text books should be revised in such a manner that students are obliged to read more than mere text-books. There are two risks in prescribing books to be studied compulsorily. The first is that students read no more than such text-books and so their reading is scanty. The habit of reading is limited by a few books. This is certainly not good for the mental health of young people which requires wider reading. Perhaps one of the reason why even educated people do not read generally is this system of text-books. The second risk is the reverse of this. If a book is prescribed students get fed up with it and will in most cases develop a dislike for it. The result is that prescribed books become, as it were, prescribed books! They are not read. In addition, prescribed books are not read at all. What is read are the notes, summaries, guides and such other annotations. There is nothing wrong in notes and guides. What is wrong is that only notes are read, leaving out the original texts. This is a perversion. Some people object to notes and guides but this is not right. The great authors and their books need to be explained and annotated. The real and valid objection can only be made if notes are read to the exclusion of text-books.
After all, we do need some kind of tests, written and oral, in order to measure the standards of students who have undergone a certain system of education. The point of the test is to see whether a course of studies has been undergone and a knowledge of the subject is attained. It is a test of certain discipline. Without such tests we cannot know who is what, whether a student has understood and assimilated knowledge of certain subjects. So we should say that: examinations are essential. They are an inevitable part of any academic system. But the point is, what type of examination is indicative of the mastery of the subject concerned? It is here that questions arise as to the goodness and suitability of examinations. From this point of view it can be said that the present system of annual examinations is not an ideal system. But changing this system means changing the system of education itself. This is the real point. So long as the present system of education continues, the present system of examinations is inevitable. Any change in the one involves a change in the other.