KU students being spoilt by too much choice in exams

KU students being spoilt by too much choice in exams
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A ‘delusion’ of education being created, mediocre and incompetent graduates being churned out, say academicians

Srinagar: The excessive choice allowed to students in semester-end exams at undergraduate level in Kashmir University “breeds mediocrity” and has made a “mockery” of examinations, academicians told Kashmir Reader.
Before the semester system was introduced at Kashmir University (KU), annual exams had question papers with 3 sections: objective, short-answer type, and long-answer type questions. There was no choice in the first two sections. In the third, long-answer type section, a student was asked to attempt 2 of the 4 questions.
Now, KU has reduced the three sections to just two, with choice allowed among questions much more than before.
In the Information Technology paper of undergrad 5th semester examination, held in February-March, from 8 questions – four in each section – a student was asked to attempt just three in all.
Similar were the question papers of Linear Algebra, Web Design, Microsoft and Net Technologies, and Education, where candidates were asked to attempt two of four questions in the first section and just one question out of 4 in the second section.
Renowned academician Prof Siddiq Wahid said that so much choice “facilitates mediocrity” among undergrad students.
“More specifically, it breeds lazy pedagogy and grade inflation,” Prof Wahid wrote in reply to an email sent by Kashmir Reader asking his opinion.
Prof Wahid wrote that the exam pattern gives rise to a “delusion that we are “educating” our young, when in fact all we are doing is schooling them and that too only in memorisation and regurgitation”.
It is worth mentioning that the choice among questions and their weightage in the semester-end undergrad examinations have been fixed by KU in such a way that a candidate can easily pass even by attempting only one question.
Although this will make it easier for students to pass the exam, Prof Wahid pointed out that the students “could choose to study only a portion of the syllabus and be fairly confident that they will be able to respond to the examination effectively”.
“Short and long answers have their own functions. Short answers involve testing a student’s grasp of the facts. Longer answers tend to test critical thinking skills,” he said.
“The teachers don’t have to think much, which is taken advantage of,” he added. Teaching, he pointed out, “is all about creativity in presenting facts, processes and ideas. It is about dialogue, between teacher and student. It is about argument and rationalising.”
Prof Wahid said that under the new pattern, “It is much easier to continue to teach as in high schools or even earlier – rote learning – rather than think with students.”
He warned it was “a criminal neglect of our task as teachers to latch on to that”.
With information coming from multiple sources, Prof Wahid said that the younger generation was “much better informed than earlier generations”.
“They are ready and hungry for dialogue. To not provide them with that is to diminish their education,” he said.
A senior professor at KU called the new exam pattern “an absolute mockery of the undergrad examination”.
As a sarcastic jibe at the KU administration, the professor said, “They do not want to fail anybody.”
“This will create a factory of graduates where none of them fails. What are they bringing into the job market?” he asked over the standard of the undergrad question paper.
“Short answer type questions used to have 8 marks at the most, but for the same question they are giving 24 marks weightage,” added the professor.
President of the College Teachers Association, Prof Tariq Ashai, called the question paper pattern an “incentive for the students that mars merit” in higher education.
“In the higher education set up, there ought to be hard and fast rules for a balanced competition. It is not like every other person will try his hand. There should be no compromise on quality education,” Prof Ashai said.
Asking the students to attempt lesser number of questions is “only to save their own time”, a college teacher said.
“How much time will it take to check 3 questions?” the teacher said.
A college lecturer from north Kashmir’s Bandipora pointed out how under the current question paper pattern in colleges, self study is discouraged.
“Under this pattern, even if a student studies only one chapter, he can easily pass the examination, but it can tell upon his competence at the national level,” he said.
The college lecturer blamed the “bureaucratic, rather than academic, interventions at KU” for the question paper pattern.
“This has been done to compensate other lapses. There are no long-term targets,” he alleged.
Dean Academic Affairs at KU, Prof Akbar Masood, who assumed charge only this week, said he was unaware of the matter yet and will look into it.