A letter to the teachers of English: 31’Examinosis’ [Archives:2003/684/Education]

November 9 2003

Dr..M.N.K.Bose ([email protected])
Associate Professor of English,
Faculty of Arts, Ibb.

Dear fellow teachers,
Don't try to look for this word in a dictionary; you will not find it even in a good and recent one. I have coined this word to express the fear and anxiety that examination creates in our students. Yes, examination causes a lot of anxiety and tension in the minds of our students. There are students who fall sick at the time of examination, with what is jovially called 'the examination fever'; there is hardly anyone who does not agitate at the sight of the examination timetable. There is an unusual calm in the college quadrangle, an unusual regularity in the classes and an unusual sobriety even in the most mischievous, as soon as the timetable is announced – an expression of the tension and fear for the examination., examinosis.
Why are students afraid of the examinations? Traditionally examinations are associated with competition, success or failure and 'flowers' for the successful ones and 'brickbats' for the failed ones. In this world of stiff competition, it is natural to expect our students to fight for better marks and their parents to encourage them to struggle for the best. But some parents and students take it to the undesirable extreme. I know of a parent who would not buy new dresses for a whole year for his child who failed to get the first rank in her LKG (the first pre-primary) class; there are parents who punish their children severely for failing to get good marks. On the other hand, in some cases, very valuable rewards such as a motorcycle, a mobile phone, and costly jewellery are baited for getting the first rank and children literally 'kill' themselves to win these rewards by getting the first rank. There have been several incidences where students kill themselves for the failure in the examinations. The Indian newspapers will be full of such news at the time of the publication of the examination results. Fortunately, I haven't heard of such things in this country. However, I have experienced students, especially the girls, fighting with me whenever they lose marks in the mid semester tests. There is always a comparison of marks with their friends' and demanding of explanation from the teacher why they have got less marks, even if their answers are the same as their friends'.
Is this fear and anxiety desirable? To some extent, yes. Students should be concerned about the examinations but not worried unnecessarily about them. It is your responsibility to see that they are not worried, anxious and tensed about the examinations. The unnecessary tension will result in their poor performance, even if they are able to do better. Try to put them at ease discussing with them the pattern of examinations, the type of test items, how they should plan their answers, how they have to prepare for the examinations etc. I don't think that there is any harm in talking to them about the examination. I would even think that they have a right to have this information. No curriculum specialist has ever said that you should guard your examination pattern as a closed secret; what you can guard is the question paper. There are teachers who provide the model question papers to the class; this will also ease their tension. There can be several model papers during the course of study so that they know what you expect of them in the examination.
I am against the practice of attaching too much secrecy to the examinations, driving the teachers and students away from the room where the question papers are copied, which helps only in creating anxiety and tension in the students' minds and ruining their performance in the examinations.

Yours fraternally,