Entrance Test ?
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 i