Sunday, September 19, 2010

On exams rather "examinations"

At the onset let me make it clear that this is not one of those post which people write when they have screwed up an exam or a test. Surprisingly, i am doing well in the papers.
But a very strange thing happened to me in the Probability and Statistics paper at IIM a few days ago. I hadn't studied much both because of me being me and the paper being open book. So, I was searching for a solution in the gigantic1020 page book thinking all the time about ctrl F. Suddenly I stumbled upon a title reading Decision making and decision analysis. It held me by my enthusiasm and pulled me. I started reading it without even realising that i was digressing and that the time was running. I had to search for how to go about a two tail test, which i had heard a lot about in the past few days but just could not make myself to read it, not even in the exam. Anyways, the article continued for five minutes and i learned that it wasn't as interesting as i thought it would be.
Now I suddenly became aware of the question i had to do in the paper and again started rapidly turning pages of the book to land on something useful. I didn't, in fact I landed on another thought which went like this:
How foolish of me to read a completely irrelevant chapter from the book when the exam is going on. I am really going to suffer in future for such carelessness on my part.Why did I even stop on that article? Why did I think that it would be interesting? Boy am I inquisitive and easily distract-able? But I want to learn what I like? Isn't it what education should be? A pull model rather than a push model? Students are given all the opportunities to learn and all they have to do is ask the right questions and hunt for the answers. Sure i am thinking about an ideal world...
...still i have seen a ted talk by some person with the "hole in the wall project". He had demonstrated how non-english speaking 14 year students self-learnt about complex biotechnology fundas when all they knew was how to use google.Something is fundamentally wrong with the way education was being seen. It is wrong even here: which is supposed to be the best education institute in india.

All we are thought is what i learnt in engineering by the term "pattern recognition". In the class you are introduced to a pattern and told a set of procedures to follow when you see one. After some steps you will invariably arrive at an "answer". You are given some time to practise this algorithm, and in the exam you are asked to repeat it. Now if you are "smart" and "intelligent" you actually do it right and arrive at the same answer as the model answer. It requires a lot of grasping, practice, presence of mind,speed,sincerity etc.But as a reward you get scored. And if you get good score you have proved to yourself and to the world that you are intelligent and that you can be complacent about your future.
I am sure the concept of exams and tests must have started with an intention of getting a feedback as to whether the whole process of learning is actually going in the right direction, then it must have totally moved to a concept of testing similar to the quality control tests in an assembly line. For example in a glass manufacturing plant there is a person at the end of the assembly line who checks whether the moulded pot is perfectly round, if it isn't he pulls out the glass piece and puts it back as cullet which then gets recycled. But now with a fierce competition in the world, made more so because of the "winner takes all" notion rising ( nicely explained by Nicholas Taleb in the Black Swan ), it is not so much about failing the test as it is about being at the top. In the glass example it did not matter how much round the glass was once it was above a given mark. 
 ....i am publishing a partly written blog , because it is getting difficult to write a complete article, will complete it asap. will touch upon the following points later

  • What great minds would think about it
  • error of macro trickled down to micro
  • solutions?
  • Practicality? dissonance because of non integrity in the objectives of educational institutes

1 comment:

Novacaine said...

Definitely True. But do keep in mind - creativity loves constraint!