Exams play an important role in education, assessing what students have learned with regard to particular subjects. However, working towards exams can put children under significant pressure – impacting their mental health and well-being.
With test-taking being the most popular method of measuring an individual’s knowledge within education, this month, the children S.A.L.V.E. supports in Uganda asked our worldwide supporters: Do you think examinations and tests are necessary for effective learning? Why or why not?
“Yes, exams are necessary”:
The subject sparked a range of perspectives, many contributors suggested that examinations are necessary such as Patricia, claiming that “Exams improve the student’s overall personality, memory and their revision skills.” Similarly, Shamina, saw the benefits exams could bring to students, stating that “Exams help us as students to develop and have a better reasoning capacity.”
Teachers can also benefit from exams according to Grace from Uganda who claimed that “Exams are necessary for the evaluation purposes of the learners by their teachers.” This was further supported by Penelope from Uganda, who believed exams could help teachers assess whether they are making an impact on their learners, rather than just passing time.
Looking to the future, Andrew from the UK believed exams were important to ensure that students have obtained the recognised skills to equip themselves for the future. Equally, Sharif, viewed exams as a stepping stone to jobs, believing that “Exams help us to bright our future and to get good paying jobs.”
“No, exams are not necessary”:
Contrastingly, some debaters followed that examinations are not necessary such as Mutesi who argued that exams make learners develop unnecessary fears and tensions, which in turn can lead to school dropouts. A Woodhaven school student echoed this viewpoint, indicating that exams are not helpful, as they cause stress rather than learning. However, Ritah from Uganda responded to this opinion, debating that instead “exams evaluate our academic strengths and weaknesses thus helping us to be attentive in class.”
In addition to the stress exams may cause, contributors emphasised the problem of competition. Angel from Uganda believed that exams could promote envy among learners and parents of the learners. Likewise, Nicola from UK stated that “Exams encouraged competition between students which can be very demotivating for those who don’t get the higher grades and it can make them feel stupid when they are not”.
Interestingly, Nicholas from Uganda, followed that exams play a role in facilitating inequalities amongst learners, making the best performers feel superior and special as opposed to the less competent learners.
What are the alternatives to exams?
With several drawbacks to exams being outlined in this debate, contributors offered alternative modes of assessment. Dan from the UK presented his vision of a perfect education system, where there would be no need for exams, just enough teachers who know their students well enough through continuous assessment of work to be able to grade them accordingly.
Another Woodhaven school student debated that coursework could be a better alternative than exams as a way to show your real learning, following that “exams test people who are good at stress rather than knowledgeable”. Juma from Uganda also supported an alternative approach to examinations, suggesting that learners would be best carrying on with learning to complete the syllabus in time rather than doing exams and tests.
Shamina from Uganda, although supporting exams believed there should be more opportunities to practice exams which would prepare students, claiming that beginning of term tests and mid term tests would better equip students for the final exams.
This debate has brought forward a number of perspectives regarding whether examinations are necessary for effective learning. Some supported the use of exams, suggesting that they develop students’ skills, help teachers evaluate what their students have learned, and help children achieve a brighter future. Alternatively, some participants disagreed that examinations are necessary, believing they cause significant stress and competition between students, and enhance inequalities. Finally, Edwin from Uganda shared a broader perspective on the use of exams believing that “Even the last exam that counts is not necessary cause it doesn’t determine destiny as destiny is determined by life, hard work and luck.”
Make sure to join us for our next insightful debate, this time about drug abuse, anytime this month or during our live session on Thursday 25th August.