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University Examination System: Whose Failure Is It Anyway?

The age old stereotyped examination system in our country is fast deteriorating the academic atmosphere in the campus. The article discusses some urgent measures the stakeholders can take to stem the rot.

By Prof. P.S. Bisen
Febuary 01, 2010

In India, the academic atmosphere in the campus is fast deteriorating due to the obsolete, redundant and stereotyped examination system. It is painful to witness the sanctity of the temple, the place of worship, wearing down to such appalling standards. It may further decline if no corrective measures are initiated—rehabilitate the dying examination system among others—by the doctors of education.

Often my mother reminded me that education is something that you know not what you learn. However, in the contemporary scheme of things, passing the examination has become paramount importance than acquiring education; cramming and selective study has become the need of the hour, thereby crippling higher education altogether and creating shallow brains.

I know of instances where students have consumed tablets at the eleventh hour to increase the ability of the brain to retain the crammed stuff. The examiner on the other hand is not flawless either. He rarely reads the whole answer before giving marks. Reason: Maybe it is due to illegible writing or repetition or time constraint or too little remuneration is just another story.

The assessment is not fool proof either. Rarely one finds guilt on the face of the examiner who has promoted the student on personal bias. On top of it, India is faced with another menace: leakage of question papers. It may take place during any of the stages: be it during paper setting, moderators, press, proof readers, confidential section of the university or at the examination center itself!

Whatever maybe the case, no one can deny that it is clearly a defining moment as far as Indian education system goes. With each reform needed to bring relevance of examinations to society, the impelling forces required to bring about the transformation are yet to wake up from their nocturnal slumber.

The first and foremost requirement is decentralization of the system. Greater responsibility should be given to the teachers who teach. Examinations ought to become "internal" and it must constitute the integral part of the teaching process.

The evaluator must point out mistakes, illegibility, irrelevant parts, unnecessary repetitions, wrong diagrams, portions out of context etc. in the valued script.

Besides, transparency in the value system requires marking of the student’s ability throughout the year via seminars, unit tests, etc. The attendance must be made mandatory. There is also need for auditing of answer sheets checked by the valuer.

The answer sheets must be selected at random from each college and rechecking must be done as a pan of auditing each year. Along with an increase in remuneration, the question papers should be a blend of narrative, alternative response type, simple recall type, matching type and filling the gap/completion type questions.

The percentages and divisions be awarded separately for theory exams, internal assessment practical and vocational training. The subjectivity of evaluation by different examiners can be reduced by awarding the result of the candidate on percentile basis. This will enable to maintain a uniform standard in different universities.

Last but not the least, the credibility of students at the undergraduate and post-graduate level should be judged on separate guidelines for the simple reason that the number of students taking the first degree examinations is the highest in universities. There are four kinds of candidates for whom meaningful pattern has to evolve. These are the private and the regular students. Further, there is a gradation in type of the latter ones on the basis of type of examination in which they appear. These are the theory papers, theory and practical and examinations that include theory, practical as well as vocational components.

As for the private students, each university must have a distance education cell and evaluation of such students must be made on periodic basis through reply sheets.

For regular students, the stress should be on practical examinations which should be conducted throughout the year. Vocational students should be guided to be more involved in practical training undertaken in industry, laboratories, institutions or social organisations. At the post-graduate level, it is recommended that no marks be awarded in practicals. The pass candidate may be placed depending on his performance as A, B or C.

All said and done, the fact remains that it is not difficult for every man to survive, just like our present examination system. However, to be healthy, each organ should be amply nourished. Similarly each of the branches of science, humanities, arts, management, technology or commerce ought to be adequately taken care, if we are to escape the morass of existing stereotyped examination system.

The author is a former member of the University Grants Commission, New Delhi and former Vice-Chancellor of Jiwaji University, Gwalior. At present, he is Chairman of the Vikrant Group of Institutions.