Why entrance exams are not in students' best interests. -PA1
When I started off as a math teacher 10 years ago, we began with four children in tenth grade, teaching in a small room of my home. We took Rs.250 for each child per month. Amongst the four, there were two students who were slow learners lacking basic knowledge of math from previous grades. I began by taking classes and tutoring them individually, first by teaching the basics of eighth and ninth grades and then moving to the prescribed tenth grade syllabus. Those children loved this method, which made me realize math isn’t actually tough for children, if enough attention is given. Slowly the amount of learners increased from four, to thirty and then as time went by, our student count grew to over one hundred.
During this time, we never judged them or required an entrance exam to check their academic ability, we simply welcomed them all. We took children of tenth grade, which is a highly significant year for both the students and their parents because it greatly determines what the students do in the future. Amongst them, 30%-40% of students weren’t aware of the basics they needed to solve the problems presented to them. Instead of abandoning them, we took them on individually and explained the material at their own level of understanding. To encourage them, we made all our students understand the philosophy: ‘If you learn it, it’s good, but if you don’t, you simply need to study again' - all of this without any entrance exam.
As the institute grew larger and larger, we searched for new and more effective ways to bring out the best in every student. In my search for new means we met a few parents who asked me to take up entrance exams. On questioning how these exams would help us, they replied by saying, “It will give you a better class of students, students who are smart and talented”. We contemplated this option for some time, as almost every other institute in Bangalore - and in fact, most institutes in India - took such exams.
Some parents in India feel that after their child goes through an entrance test and passes, they will become joyful and excited to join that institute. However, after many years of not requiring an entrance exam with our students, I am not convinced that this strategy is in the best interests of the individual learner. At our institute, we do not give way for such exams because we believe they can too easily create a sense of hatred and jealousy among peers, which demoralizes young students.
Over the four years that have passed since the opening of Achieve School of Education, some have called me crazy for holding this view, but the children I work with and their parents love me for it. Since the beginning, other schools were already taking up standard screening tests, not only for students but also interviewing parents. Some parents have asked me why we do not take up entrance exams and also why we do not interview them, as they failed to understand the strategy of such unique institutes. One of the parents even mocked me by saying we don’t take entrance exams as mine was a new school and this was our way to attract students. He went on to claim that we will start taking up such exams when we have enough students and become a reputable school. Unfortunately, even after explaining our philosophy to him, he didn’t seem to understand.
Today we take it as a challenge to stick to our beliefs and not to take entrance exams, even though our school is now running at its full capacity and has flourished for four years. Although we have aptitude tests and assessment tests for new admissions for eighth and ninth grades, these are only to know where the child stands and how much a child is capable of in future competitive exams. They are only intended to assess and not to block children from entering our school.
When a child prepares for an entrance exam he is given raw information with no context from which to draw. This merely causes pain - pain not only to the child but for the parents too. There is an extreme amount of pressure for both as they strive hard just to get admission in a school, regardless of whether that school is interested in helping the student overcome difficulties in learning or other problem areas. Entrance exams suggest that a school does not have time to bother with the core of teaching and improving students, instead they prefer that their job is half done for them before the child is admitted. In their view, students are only worth educating if they adhere to a pre-existing standard.
It so happened once that a parent approached me and reported that her two-year-old daughter was rejected from one of the best and highly reputed schools of Bangalore. She said that her daughter was asked to color a square, a triangle, and a circle, which the young girl did, but unfortunately some color crossed the outline of these figures and she was rejected. The parent was in tears as she described this incident, which pained me deeply. What baffled me was when the parent used the words ‘my child was rejected’.
We believe a school and a classroom should have a heterogeneous group. Such groups create interaction and the ability to develop themselves in all fields and not only academics. If, for instance, we do start taking entrance tests for all admissions for our school, we would be creating an environment of stress and strain in the kids. In the classroom there won’t be any team spirit, nor will anyone help each other, because they would be busy competing with each other in the so-called rat race. That kind of environment engenders jealousy and unhealthy competitiveness. Ultimately, they will land up having interpersonal issues.
In our school we have a few gifted and capable children and also a few children who are slow learners, but we find that the smart ones are always happy to help and teach those who need help. Some of these children who are the top performers are mini teachers themselves and have an overflowing amount of self-confidence, which endows them with a feeling of experience. There are so many benefits and surprising advantages of a heterogeneous group that it is hard to list them. Most important of all, they create a lot of bonding, and we have seen that leadership qualities develop naturally alongside the teamwork.
It is quite simple for educated parents to understand this process. We believe what actually needs to be tested is the ability of the students to learn, not to simply test what a child may have already learnt. By definition, the duty of a school is to educate and train children. Now, if a school is taking up entrance exams so as not to take up students who are slow learners, they are withdrawing from their duties. Some points as to why entrance exams are wrong are mentioned below:
The whole idea of an educational institute is to teach students without even considering their academic capabilities, in order to bring out the best of each child.
If schools are there to take smart students, then what is the need of such schools? These students can compete anywhere without much difficulty.
If there are only smart students, then what will happen to the slower ones? Everyone should be given a chance to learn together.
If the whole class has gifted children there will be more arguments, fights and disagreements and as a result the students will be divided into many groups, ending up in interpersonal fights.
Schools are a social unit first, and only later a commercial benefit. These exams which are based on logic, do not and cannot bring out the actual capabilities of children. What if the child has another remarkable talent than books? Do these entrance tests account for and assess multiple intelligence?
A child rejected at an early age feels torn and is demotivated. Stress and depression can take over at a very young age.
Entrance exams are often little more than a cheap strategy to collect money in the name of management quotas.
These exams are taken as the schools do not want any unexpected challenges. Instead they want it all to be served directly on their plates with as few hassles as possible.
In conclusion, we urge all parents to understand the above and search for schools without any entrance exams. Insist on a school which is prepared and willing to provide the best to every child and take up all challenges in their path. Do you support this stance? Why or why not? Please feel free to punch in with your views.
Created by Pa1
Transcribed by Touheed
Edited by rahayan