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Friday, September 5, 2008

Exam Preparation

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A recent study found that students answer rote-based or procedural questions relatively better than those that require application.

Caree Guidance India

Ask students the definition of speed and velocity and pat comes the reply. But ask them about the application of these concepts and they seem lost. They are well versed with definitions of perimeter and area, but ask them what these mean and they look confused.

A recent study by Assessment of Scholastic Skills through Educational Testing (ASSET) found that students across classes answer rote-based or procedural questions relatively well. The flip side is that students seem to rely on memory or learnt procedures to answer almost all questions, rather than trying to solve the unfamiliar ones.

The study also found that many practical competencies are not being developed well. For example, measurement, estimation, problem solving, general observation and day to-day language use is not up to the mark. Lastly, instead of acquiring concepts, students seem to be learning how to handle a limited number of question types. So when they come across a question similar to the one they have 'learnt', they 'jump' to the most familiar answer.

“The present education system is marks-oriented,” opines Vijay Laxmi Singh, Principal, Salwan Public School (afternoon), Delhi, adding, “Rote learning is fruitful, but it should not be confined to scoring marks alone and should be applied to real life situations as well.” Concurs Jessie Vaz, principal, Jamnabai Narsee, Mumbai, “Can we ever forget nursery rhymes and tables we learnt in KG? Though we never understood their underlying meaning, we can recall them because they were learnt by heart. Memorising,in itself,is a skill.”She adds,“Teachers also play an important role and they should not only cover the syllabus but also uncover it.”

Says Kanika, a class IX student, “At times, we can't do without rote learning, as in the case of languages like Sanskrit and French, but in other subjects, understanding concepts helps in better retention.”

There are some educators who are against rote learning. Sita Laxmi Vishwanath, principal, Amrita Vidyalam,Chennai,is one of them.“I strongly feel that there should be a model that encourages concepts to reach students. If a student understands concepts well, there won't be a need to mug up,” she opines, adding,“The teaching methodology should be more activity-based.”

Learning by doing can be a way to get out of this rote-learning system, feels Veena Dhyani, counsellor, Cambridge School, Noida.“A major problem with our education system is that we have class tests, unit tests, finals but there is no continuous assessment, which is imperative. Also, there are three ways by which students learn — seeing, hearing and doing. The need of the hour today is to develop and follow a curriculum that encourages learning by doing,”she recommends.


A possible solution can be, as G S S Rao, principal, Presidency School, Bangalore, puts it, “Besides the leaning process, the examination system too should be made application oriented.” Similarly, Bhushan Kumar, co-ordinator, Heritage School, Vasant Kunj also blames the system and says that it is more theoretical. “Even in subjects like maths, students mug up.”Most principals,teachers and even students feel that the education system is meant only to test one's cramming abilities, and one who lacks the skill eventually ends up scoring poorly.

Sunil Sharma


Dil Se Desi Group

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