The examination system in India, a cornerstone of the educational framework, is multifaceted, catering to various stages of a student’s academic journey from school to higher education. Here, we explore its various dimensions, including its structure, challenges, reforms, and the impact of technology.
The system of examination has evolved, reflecting changes in educational philosophies, technological advancements, and societal needs.
With over 1,100 universities, 50,000 affiliated institutions, including 700 autonomous colleges, and 40.15 million students enrolled overall, India has a wide variety of higher education examination systems and evaluation modalities.
More than 15 million pupils are certified annually by the 60 school boards that oversee secondary and upper secondary education.
Read: Education in India
Examination system in India
Students should be prepared for all kinds of exams throughout their education. On the other hand, instruction will guarantee that students only become ready for rote memory if the exam pattern is understood, for example, by assessing mostly memory. This is the overall trend.
Moreover, the primary goals of the school administration are raising the pass rate and inflating grades. As a result, businesses’ talent search expenses increase. One of the most important strategies to raise the bar for education is to have a reliable examination system.
Good examination boards are said to be characterized by uniformity and secrecy. Scandals result from secrecy that is not properly checked, balanced, or audited.
Experimentation in assessment and curriculum is eliminated by standardization through examination consistency. Rather, openness in instruction and evaluation is the only way to guarantee the validity of assessments and the caliber of education.
Structure of examination in India
- Board Examinations: At the school level, students undergo board examinations at the end of the 10th grade (Secondary) and the 12th grade (Senior Secondary), which are crucial for determining their academic and professional paths. The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) are the two main national boards, alongside various state boards.
- Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE): Some boards like the CBSE had implemented the CCE to assess students throughout the year, focusing on holistic education rather than rote learning. However, its application and continuity have seen changes over the years.
College and University Level
- Semester System: Higher education institutions, including universities and colleges, generally follow the semester system with mid-term and end-term examinations. This system also includes internal assessments, practicals, and projects.
- Entrance Examinations: Admission to professional courses like engineering (JEE), medical (NEET), management (CAT), and others is through competitive entrance examinations. These tests assess a candidate’s aptitude and proficiency in specific subjects.
Challenges in the examination system
Every test season, controversies involving certain colleges or even school boards are reported by the media.
- The quality of the certificates that the school boards and examination authorities issue is a key factor in determining the examination system’s legitimacy.
- Since learning is dependent on the suggested examination system, the examination system’s lack of credibility in educational institutions has an impact on the standards of education.
- Rote Learning: Traditional examination systems have often been criticized for encouraging memorization over conceptual understanding and critical thinking.
- The Indian system right from the beginning becomes intensely competitive and stressful and starts promoting cramming as a way to move forward with high marks.
- India’s Education system prioritizes competition over comprehension, fostering a culture of rote memorization rather than genuine understanding.
- Stress and Pressure: The high stakes associated with board and entrance examinations exert considerable pressure on students, sometimes leading to anxiety and stress-related issues.
- Access and Equity: There are concerns about equitable access to preparatory resources and opportunities, which can disadvantage students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
- Many of the Boards don’t have adequate staff, or enough academic faculty to monitor their procedures. Many of the State Boards are actually in very poor shape as far as their academic infrastructure is concerned.
- Even the CBSE (Central Board of School Education) and ICSE (Indian Certificate of Secondary Education) operate as bureaucratic, mechanical set-ups, potentially compromising the quality of examination processes.
Reforms and Innovations
- New Education Policy (NEP) 2020: The NEP 2020 aims to overhaul the Indian educational system, proposing changes like reducing the high-stakes nature of board exams, making them more flexible, and focusing on critical thinking.
- Technology Integration: Online examinations, computer-based testing, and the use of AI for personalized learning and assessment are becoming more prevalent. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of digital platforms for conducting exams.
- Online Learning and Examinations: The pandemic led to a significant shift towards online learning and remote examinations. This shift has continued to influence how assessments are conducted, with many institutions adopting hybrid models.
- Adaptive Testing: Some entrance exams have started exploring computer-adaptive testing, which adjusts the difficulty level of questions based on the examinee’s responses, making exams more personalized and efficient.
- Addressing Institutional Dysfunction: There is a need to recognize and rectify the systemic inadequacies within examination boards, including staffing shortages and infrastructure deficiencies.
- Holistic Evaluation Criteria: Expand the criteria for evaluating student performance to encompass a broader range of competencies, including creativity, collaboration, and emotional intelligence.
The examination system in India is at a crossroads, with traditional methods being reevaluated in light of new educational philosophies and technological advancements.
While the system has served as a critical filter in the academic and professional screening process, its evolution is essential to cater to the dynamic needs of students and the broader socio-economic landscape.
The focus is gradually shifting from merely testing rote knowledge to assessing a student’s comprehensive understanding, practical skills, and critical thinking abilities.
This shift, supported by technological advancements and policy reforms, promises to make the Indian examination system more holistic, inclusive, and aligned with global educational standards.
Previous year questions
Q. Which of the following provisions of the Constitution does India have a bearing on Education? (Prelims 2012)
- Directive Principles of State Policy
- Rural and Urban Local Bodies
- Fifth Schedule
- Sixth Schedule
- Seventh Schedule
Select the correct answer using the codes given below:
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 3, 4 and 5 only
(c) 1, 2 and 5 only
(d) 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
Q. How have digital initiatives in India contributed to the functioning of the education system in the country? Elaborate on your answer. (Mains 2020)
-Article by Swathi Satish