In the past few weeks, there has been much debate about the harmful aspects of exams. In particular, the high stakes PSLE exams. In this post, we share our thoughts about this hotly debated topic.
1. THE HARM
Indeed, exams can be very harmful when:-
- they do not test what is actually taught in school
- they are deemed to be an accurate reflection of a person’s self-worth and value
- they become the sole purpose for studying
- they encourage and breed arrogance and exclusivity
2. THE BENEFITS
Exams have been used as an important assessment tool for centuries and in all parts of the world. If managed carefully, exams have the potential to transform societies. Aside from enabling educators to gauge if children are learning well, they can empower students by teaching them certain values. We talk about some of these values below:-
A good education is not just about scoring for exams but in life, our children will always face one kind of test or another. Exams are useful because they are objective. Exams cut out human biasness and allows everyone to compete on an even keel. Thus, accepting exams as part of life teaches students that often in life, we have to accept things that we may not like.
Discipline and Perseverance
The rigour of exams helps to instill discipline and perseverance. They also teach students the value of hard work, planning and time management.
When students do not fare well in exams, they can learn to reflect and see how they can do things differently in the future. If they are able to see the positive and not the negative in ‘failure’ and adopt a ‘I can do’ attitude, this will bring them far in life. The key is for the student to learn to ‘see’ himself/herself objectively and not let disappointments eat into his/her self-esteem. If parents and teachers can provide support when students are unhappy with their results, then the students can learn skills that go away beyond the exam itself. The key is to teach children to see the bigger picture and to emphasize more on the importance of effort and honest self-reflection than on results per se.
3. KEEPING A BALANCE
While exams have a useful role in education, using exams to judge the long term potential of students is overly rigid. On the other hand, dismissing exams as a useful assessment tool can be detrimental if teachers discover a bit too late that some students needed earlier intervention.