A letter to the teachers of English: 85How to avoid copying in the examinations? (2) [Archives:2005/842/Education]

May 16 2005

([email protected])
Associate Professor of English,
Faculty of Arts, Ibb.

Dear Fellow teachers,

The reasons given in the last letter, except the first one, are related to those involved in the education system. The lessons included in the courses in our schools and colleges are found irrelevant by most of our students. Who is responsible? The syllabus makers for the schools and the teachers for the colleges. Why don't we change them to suit the needs of the students? The Ministry of Education, with a lot of interest in the students, updates the school syllabus periodically; hence the new syllabus, introduced in the 1990s. But is the new syllabus suitable to the needs of the learners of English in schools? I understand that the present English Course, English Course for Yemen, was piloted in the 1980s before it was introduced in the country. Yet most of the teachers who use this Course at present, according to several surveys, feel uneasy over the Course and find it rather unsuitable to their students.

As most of the teachers of English in schools are not happy with the new Course, it is important that the Ministry conducts a survey with the help of their Inspectorates to see if the teachers are really unhappy with the new Course and if they are, what problems they face with the Course and how to solve them. I am aware that there were one or two Workshops conducted by the Ministry of Education to familiarize the teachers with the new Course but they have not served the purpose, I understand. Unless a serious step is taken by the Ministry to solve the problems caused by the new Course, teachers of English will continue to find it difficult to make English teaching interesting to the students; the less-interested students will continue to use the easy ways to pass the exams and copying will perpetuate in the schools.

The problem in the colleges are not much different from the ones the school students face, but the solution is easier to find in the colleges, as the courses are designed and taught by the teachers in the colleges; if they develop a positive attitude toward learners and their needs, they can easily tune the courses to make the students develop interest in the courses. The students in turn will develop interest in the course they study and wean themselves away from copying in the exams. But how does one change the attitude of the so-called experts in the colleges?

The problems of examinations have been discussed in my earlier letters on testing and evaluation. The recent thinking is to consider assessment as a source of learning; 'test to learn' is a new slogan in the field of evaluation. But some of our question papers continue to be a measure of punishment to the students; some of us find pleasure in making the examinations a dangerous mystery to the students in order to keep them under a constant threat; or, alternatively, some of us give in and make the examinations a treat to the 'memory machines'. It is necessary that we realize that examinations are one of the ways of assessing the performance of our students; we should make them as student-friendly as possible, at the same time a device to assess the real abilities of the students. This alone will make our students give up the evil practice of copying. As long as our examinations are 'a Pandora's box' and 'a Damocles' sword', we can never wean our students away from copying. Let's resolve that we make our examinations student-friendly and enjoyable.

Yours fraternally,