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The Karnataka government proposes open book examination at the primary level

SHRIVIBHAVANA

 

Bengaluru:  It seems there is no end to the controversies in the Karnataka primary education sector. Every day media houses are exposing scams in connection with RTE admissions, textbook distribution, uniform tender, a free bus pass to the students etc. The latest addition to this series of controversies is the proposal of introducing the Open Book examination in the state schools at the primary school level.

 

All started with the state primary and secondary education minister N Mahesh talking about such a system at an event held at his native district Chamarajanagar. N Mahesh has stated that the government is considering the proposal of implementing open book examination system at the primary school level.

 

What is Open Book examination?: According to K. P. Mohanan  The Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Pune, Open Book examination is one in which examinees are allowed to consult their class notes, textbooks, and other approved material while answering questions. This practice is not uncommon in law examinations, but in other subjects, it is mostly unheard of. Radical and puzzling though the idea may sound to those who are used to conventional examinations, it is ideally suited to teaching programmes that especially aim at developing the skills of critical and creative thinking.

 

In his research article on the Open Book Examinations, he has pointed out that there are two types of Open Book Examinations.  They are restricted type and the unrestricted type. In the restricted type of open book examinations, students are permitted to bring into the examination room one or more specific documents approved by the course instructor. In the unrestricted type of open book examinations, students are free to bring whatever they like. In the restricted open book examination, students may be permitted to consult printed documents such as the logarthmic tables, dictionaries, or complete works of Shakespeare, but no handwritten material or printed documents which have not had prior approval. One may also need to make sure that the printed documents that students bring do not contain any scribbles on the margin. In this type of examination, the approved documents function more or less as appendices to the question paper itself. These examinations are not radically different from closed book examinations. They do not present any special problems, irrespective of the nature of the course.

 

In his research article, he points out that a more important reason for using open book examinations is that they have a tremendous impact on promoting the right mental sets in both learning and teaching. The most immediate result on students will be that they will stop "mugging" or rote learning. Most students used to conventional examinations think of "studying" as the mechanical memorisation of information in textbooks and class notes in order to reproduce it in examinations. Open book examinations will effect a fundamental change in this attitude. If textbooks can be consulted in the examination rooms, why bother to memorise them?

 

But in Karnataka, the issue now led to a massive controversy.  Experts are divided over whether this new system is good or bad for the students’ fraternity. One of the arguments put forth by the no country in any part of the world offers open-book examination at primary/lower level. Open-book system is there a few countries only at a higher level and even at that level, there are differences, they say.

 

D Shashikumar, general secretary, Associated Management of  Primary and Secondary Schools of Karnataka (KAMS) stated that open book examination system will be harmful to the learning process. “Every new minister or bureaucrat recommend their views without any research or without taking opinion from stakeholders. Introduction of systems like open-book exam will cause the non-competitive evolution of brains and children should not be used for government’s experiments. We condemn such a move,” he observed.

 

Bring real reforms first: but what academicians feel all these statements in regard to the academic reforms mere an act of eye wash. “Presently the state schools of the  Karnataka especially the government run schools which are in the huge number are not ready for any kind of academic reforms like open book system. Schools are crying for better infrastructure. Recently a statement given by the minister him self has revealed that across the state more than 4,000 primary schools are in the verge of closure due to the poor enrollment. These schools have less than 10 students. There are a lot of complaints about the school infrastructure across the state. Students are fast moving towards the unaided private schools as parents have become more ambitious and sensitive while shortlisting the schools. The state government has no answers for any of these burning problems faced by the schools. We need more students in the schools. These kind of unnecessary controversies further push the students away from the government schools,” warn Varadaraj Ithal, an academic researcher.

 

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