Imagining a schooling system without exams


At the very outset, let your imagination flow with the narrative I am going to share in the next few lines and sensory neurons observe whether the feeling is mutual or not. When I was a fifth grader, I used to feel overwhelming psychological pressure the night before any exam. Having moments of jitters and pondering the consequences I would have to face in case of my failure to live up to my parents’ expectations were usual things that clouded my thought-process in the childhood days. 

To be frank, I could neither put my best foot forward when it comes to taking a test owing to such test anxiety nor could I put my parents in my shoes to make them realize my state of mind. Consequently, I cut sorry figures in most of the tests taken in my schooling days, which was mostly attributed to me being a dull student. 

I think the feeling is reciprocal for many of you reading this piece of write-up. If not, do not contemplate or peruse further as you will not be able to identify yourself with the central notion of this article. If so, read on to find some kind of solace to justify that you were not that bad either as far as your academic performance was concerned rather it was something else (your left part of the brain) that pushed you over the edge in your childhood.  

There is no denying that exams in the schooling years have always been a topic of interest and public debate. No matter whether you find yourself in favour of conducting exams or vice versa, the fact is that exams, I think, should be discouraged in the schooling years as formal assessment process creates insurmountable difficulties and impediments to the path of learning for the tiny tots. 

The staggering point that parents often ignore is exams can impact the emotional state of a child. Test stress, coupled with the fear of admonishment from the parents’ side, results in grave repercussions for a child. Eventually the stress shows up in different forms such as feeling of unease, fear of failure and mind-numbing sense of doom. 

Such feeling of test anxiety hampers the whole learning process as an education system heavily reliant on exams fails to offer any outlet for spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions to the learners. In the worst case this kind of stressful environment impairs the children’s chances of learning new things and extending their horizons of imagination. 


Test stress, coupled with the fear of admonishment from the 

parents’ side, results in grave repercussions for a child. 

Eventually the stress shows up in different forms such as 

feeling of unease, fear of failure and mind-numbing sense 

of doom. Such feeling of test anxiety hampers the whole 

learning process as an education system heavily reliant 

on exams fails to offer any outlet for spontaneous overflow

of powerful emotions to the learners.


Let me put it in a more scientific way. According to recent findings in neuroscience, there are many routes through which any piece of information you read can reach the cache (memory storage) of your brain, one of those being the ‘amygdala’, a sort of switching station that directs the information received either to the ‘high-thinking zone’ or ‘low-reacting zone’, depending on the level of anxiety.

In a negative setting, the amygdala limits information access while it helps information flow into the higher-brain storage unimpeded if the level of stress is low. To put it in plain words, if a child is experiencing stress, it narrows down the child’s cognitive ability resulting in clouded judgment in the exam hall and an inability to exhibit creativity in the long run. Pressuring your child into sitting for an exam can be detrimental to such an extent along with other far-reaching impacts. 

All these said and substantiated, is it actually possible to imagine a schooling system without an evaluation process in place as assessments are an integral part of any formal education system? Well, we can in that case switch to other types of assessments instead of arranging exams that rack the children’s nerves. One such option could be ‘formative assessment’, a kind of evaluation system that employs a wide range of day-to-day techniques to evaluate a pupil’s learning progress. 

This process is also called ‘continuous assessment’ as the techniques are applied throughout the year. Such kind of informal assessment system would bear fruits for the children as they will not be exposed to the fear of sitting for an exam. Moreover, the teachers following this evaluation process can also get back to the learners from time to time with necessary feedback based on their performance. In lieu of formal exams, students’ caliber could be measured through different practical parameters by letting them work on tangible ideas.   

And at the end of an academic year every student could be encouraged to take part in an interview by creating an ambience conducive to those tender minds. Teachers can ask them questions in a way that will arouse their creativity, not a feeling of nervous breakdown. A student’s performance in the interview along with the results of other metrics used in the formative assessment can help the schools decide whether a particular student deserves to be promoted to the next class or not.  

To conclude, if we really want to let those young minds wander around and explore new horizons of knowledge, we must redefine the purpose of schooling. To many of us it seems axiomatic that the main purpose of the schools is to prepare the students for passing the exams with flying colours being oblivious to the fact that a well thought-out schooling system should rather be more focused on providing an outlet to the children for creative expression and transcending them into a never-never land where an exhilarating sense of new beginnings will sweep through their minds.   


The writer is a columnist who likes to delve deeper into human psyche with a view to exploring the factors that influence it.