Delinking Stress from Exams……
Mrs Archna Sharma * Published in CBSE – CENBOSEC – Jan-Mar 2009
“Only a month to go for my final exams. My whole routine is changed. I do not have time for recreation. I do not spend enough time with my parents and friends. I am expected to study 24×7 till my exams are over.”
“I have to cram the exact answer dictated in the class otherwise it would be marked wrong.”
These two examples clearly show that the pressure a child is under to fulfil the expectations of his/her family, friends and school. This leads us to an analysis of various exam related factors which induce an inordinate level of anxiety and stress that at times results in nervous breakdown and suicides.
Instead of panicking about exams only when these are approaching, we need to be proactive.The teachers and the students have to be convinced that learning in schools should not be viewed only as exam oriented. The main focus should be more on the requisite problem solving skills than on the accumulation of knowledge. The students who develop a proper attitude to learning, study, good techniques and habits will never feel overstressed during examinations. This attitude has to be inculcated amongst the students by the school as well as the parents. But, are we ourselves prepared for this paradigm shift?
In spite of several reminders from the Board, students are still discouraged to think beyond textbooks and form solutions on their own. They are punished even for making minor changes in the answers. Instead of appreciating the efforts of a child who tries to give an answer alternative to the one dictated in the class, we disapprove his answer without taking into account the level of the child. So, will this child ever dare to use his creativity in learning? Aren’t we forcing him to follow only rote learning, which is the major cause of stress? Learning is never stressful. It’s only when we make learning forceful, restricted and meaningless that it causes stress.
How can we save our children from this dreadful menace? Not by recommending de-stressing techniques, but by striving to de-link the stress factor from the examination. All the educators need to understand that lowering the standards of evaluation is not the solution but upgrading the standards of learning definitely is. If evaluation is incorporated into the learning process and is focussed upon the maximisation of learning outcomes in the form of understanding and application ability and not on the recall of content then the students will love to be evaluated again and again. Learning will become an exciting life long journey. True learning takes place when the environment is made challenging for the students.
Are our teachers fully equipped with the mindset, the strategies and the methods to help students to view examination as any other challenge of their day to day life? In exams, they should be encouraged to apply their knowledge in solving the hypothetical problems in the same manner as they do for the problems of life. Tests should be designed in a manner that the core competencies of the students should be checked rather than instant recall of textual knowledge. Examinations should be considered as motivation to learn further. These steps have to be taken practically. For this, our teachers require continuous exposure to the pedagogical changes and the basic focus of examinations. At school level, from the setting of papers to evaluation, we tend to forget that these should be as per the level of the students and not the teachers.
All the stakeholders need to understand that the exams are bound to be stressful and optimum level of stress always help us to produce our best performance. It is only when the stress level rises beyond this optimum level that it becomes a matter of concern and sometimes alarming too. We should consider the exams as tools to prepare us for the challenges of life without getting stressed to the level that their efficiency level is affected adversely.
CBSE has already made many changes to simplify the examination procedures. But, have we been able to understand all these initiatives in their true sense? In CCE, we are continuously assessing the students without taking any corrective measures for teaching and learning strategies. Rather, we tend to compensate the time devoted to this by cutting down on other learning activities. So, somewhere the actual aim of continuous assessment is lost. Moreover,there should be complete transparency in grading wherein a student should get the liberty to know how he/she has been graded and how to improve on that. This requires us to have a clear understanding of the indicators of assessment and guidelines for grading. Comprehensive assessment should take care of all the aspects of the child’s personality but here again we are grading the students without proper diagnosis. CCE, if implemented in a proper manner can be very effective in making teaching creative resulting in joyful learning. Gradually we can start drifting from term end exams towards continuous performance-based assessment.
In current examination system, everyone is expected to take the tests in written form. We need to realise that some people are good at practical work and apprenticeship rather than theoretical work. There should be some support for such students too. We can use alternative methods of assessment wherein students are made to perform meaningful tasks that depict application of essential skills and knowledge. The emphasis should be more on construction of
knowledge rather than on recall or recognition. Instead of forming the curriculum on the basis of pre-determined body of knowledge, it should be flexible and assessment driven. All these changes will take away stress from the assessment resulting in more productive citizens. We can follow more authentic ways of assessment where learning outcomes are associated with real life situations and the intellectual accomplishments are significant.