To celebrate the birth anniversary of independent India’s first ever Education Minister, a debate was held on the contentious issue of the “Open Book Examination” system. The Spirit of ICT reports…
The Institute of Chemical Technology celebrated the 125th birth anniversary of Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad who was one of the most iconic figures in India’s freedom struggle and was also independent India’s first ever education minister. ICT commemorated this day and paid tribute to the image of the dynamic personality by conducting a debate competition on the topic, “Open Book Examination.”
Four undergraduate students who had pre-registered for this event were divided into two teams and the teams chose their stands – whether they were for the motion or against it via a chit system. Dr. Shalini Arya and Dr. Jyoti from the Department of Foods and Food Technology were invited to judge the event and they lent their opinions on this topic with utmost grace. A number of distinct points were enumerated by the participants – the team speaking for the motion mentioned how an open book examination actually tests how deeply the concepts have been ingrained within a student, the application of the same to the practical world and importantly the absence of stress that is usually associated with the normal system of closed book examination. The opposition team put forth their thoughts and opinions with equal, if not more vigor by stating that an open book test may alleviate the stress but does not benefit the student in the long term because if a student has been able to grasp a concept well, he/she should be able to apply it irrespective of whether there is a book placed in front of him during the examination or not and besides, some amount of stress is always essential during an examination as it induces a student to prepare to the fullest for the same. A rebuttal session of ten minutes followed the speeches of the opening speakers wherein the opposition team mentioned how later in life it is essential for a student to know his/her concepts deeply especially if asked during a job interview wherein any reference material is never given. The proposition team in its defense stated that the current scenario of the examination system only ensures rote learning – having an open book examination will in fact promote lateral thinking. In the concluding speeches, an interesting example was put forth by the team speaking for the motion. They mentioned how a surgeon must go beyond mere rote learning and apply the knowledge gained to the practical systems of anatomy, and this is thus symbolic of how going beyond the book is essential in the medical profession and an open book test will ensure the same. The opposition team in turn expounded on how there’s a big chance that in the case of an open book exam, the students might take the tests as a piece of cake – not putting in the requisite efforts to study for the same due to the knowledge that in case they happen to blunder, the resource material would be present right in front of them. This might even hamper the healthy competitive spirit present among peers.
Following this discussion, the judges were called upon to put forth their views on the topic and they rightly spoke on all the points raised by the participants while also adding their own suggestions and beliefs. The stage was then thrown open to the audience and students zealously expressed themselves on this motion. Personal experiences were cited whereby a student mentioned how in her junior college her professor would allow the students to bring a paper and write whatever they want on that paper to use as reference material during a test. At the same time another student staunchly opposed the open book testing system by highlighting a belief already mentioned by the opposition team: how the students tend to take exams lightly. Another student articulated on a very important point – how professors too would have to change their mindsets before setting a question paper based on an open book exam and a higher weight must be associated with quality and not quantity, while also stating how the open book system, although heavily practiced in the Western world is alien to India as the general mentality here is to avoid studying as far as possible.
Following this, the reputed and highly respected Vice Chancellor of the Institute addressed the participants and the audience. He gave an insight into Maulana Azad’s life and also shared with the crowd some of his own life experiences as an educationist while mentioning that with an open book exam, “the sale of textbooks might rise but knowledge might not” but also mentioning how it might be useful to apply the system to a subject such as Mathematics. Dr. Smita Lele, the Registrar of the Institute too shared her views on the topic and addressed the audience with great enthusiasm.
The mandate was in the favor of the opposition and the team speaking against the motion won the debate. All four participants received their certificates from the Vice Chancellor. All in all it was an event that generated awareness regarding the National Education Day, and threw light on the examination patterns currently present and whether these can, in any way, be modified to suit the needs of the students and the professors at the same time.