montessori system of education

Exam stress – A growing Concern

There has been a significant increase in the number of young people seeking counselling over exam stress, and as per some of the recent studies conducted on the same, the increase could be as high as 200%. For child rights protection campaigners and parents it could be more worrisome than their child’s overall education status.

As I am no expert in this, so allow me the liberty of quoting a CBSE helpline figure, where the national board announced that its exam helpline service received record number of approaches from students and their parents, who are apprehensive about exams. Also, the queries about counselling over exam stress have tripled in last two years. In 2014-15 alone, the board received more than 34,000 approaches from students over school concerns such as problems with teachers, revision, workloads, and other issues, placing education in the top 10 of most recurrent trepidations among users for the first time. More than half of subsequent counselling sessions organized by the board dealt with young person’s main concern related to school and exams; a 200% increase compared with 2013-14. And the number of hits on the online website and through social media channels is even higher.

Talking to some of the experts, I realized that the major concern amongst children was the worry whether they will be able to score well in their exams and live up to the aspirations of their parents. Under the pressure to score well and surpass the overall competition children end up putting unnecessary pressure on themselves, which leads to stress and in some severe cases depression too. Psychologists have also reported that each year, especially during the exam session, children and their parents feel more stressed. A common mistake, which almost every parent makes, is the fact that many bar their children from participating in any other activity, citing the aspersions of the exam season. These figures came when hundreds of thousands of pupils were preparing to sit for CBSE as well as entrance exams in India. Even in primary schools, the scenario is no different, parents are scrambling to get their children registered while dealing with last moment blues.

As these figures reveal, the exam period can be a very stressful and anxious time for young people; add to it the pressure to do well and one would have perfect recipe to stress and depression. In no terms I am agitating against the tests, which are conducted as part of an effort to judge how well the pupil has understood the concepts of the process, however, the fault lies in the lack of support system for children. If we talk in ethical terms, schools have a moral obligation to support their pupils during times of pressure, and ideally schools should have strong setups in place to do so. We have, however, failed to take steps to ensure pupils are not on a constant treadmill of revision and testing.

Family relationships, as per many experts, were cited as the most common concerns by young people using the service in 2012-13. Another reason for the rise in exam stress could be nervousness on the part of teachers to deal with such cases in their classrooms. It is possible to draw a link between increased stress and exam reform and the accountability framework under which schools are ranked and measured. India’s children are some of the most tested in the world – and doctors, teachers and parents want change.

Schools are also testing pupils more frequently to prepare for exams. A survey last year – by a company that sells security seals used for exam papers – found that many secondary schools made pupils sit mock exams within a month of the summer holiday’s ending.

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SNAP 2015 test pattern

The Perfect Recipe for success

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Standardized test scores are key criteria for admission into universities in the USA. All students who dream of studying in the States must provide these scores along with their application to be seriously considered for admission. There are many different and often competing tests which you can give. Depending on your desired course, level of education and target universities, you may have to give one or more entrance tests.

All major educational institutions in the USA require foreign students to pass an English proficiency test. The TOEFL (Test Of English as a Foreign Language) is the most popular with American universities though some will accept IELTS (International English Language Testing System) scores as well. For entrance to undergraduate courses SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) scores are required, which measure your proficiency in English reading, writing and math. There are also special subject-SATs you can take for certain specialized courses.

For post-graduate courses, US colleges require GRE (Graduate Record Examination) scores, which is an aptitude test with a verbal, quantitative and analytical writing section. Then, there are various field specific tests like the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test), LSAT (Law School Admission Test) and the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) which you will need for admission into advanced study courses in many locations.

Like all examinations, these tests too carry with them a superfluous cloud of stress and pressure. With the requisite preparation and a clear focus, you can ace these tests with ease. Here are a few tips to help you pass these tests with flying colours:

Google It!

With the power of the internet on your side, you can easily find out exactly which exams you need to give and how to start writing these tests. All the necessary information is on the internet and nowadays you can even register for these tests online.

The flip-side to the excellent online resources is that often you will be overwhelmed by information. It’s important to get all the details straight so the next step is to focus on finding the details which are relevant to you. Carefully compile all the documents you will need and figure out the step by step process from registering to results delivery.

Define Your Targets

It is important to identify exactly what your target score is. This will depend on the country you need a visa for, the university you are applying to, the specific course you wish to pursue as well as any scholarships you hope to get. Each of these may have separate minimum requirements. Having a crystal clear goal in your mind will help you focus and study better.

Sometimes the study material is available online, while at other times you can buy textbooks from the market. Go for second hand books to avoid extra expenses and study diligently.

Follow your Schedules

Some tests don’t require much preparation, like the IELTS and TOEFL, but others like the SAT will require a good bit of studying. There are a million things to do when applying to US universities. It can become very easy to be lax about studying for these exams. So create a well-structured study plan to figure out how and when you will cover all the information you have to.

Talk to people

It is always helpful to get the perspective of someone with experience. Talk to people who have given the test in recent years. They will have invaluable insights on seemingly unimportant details which you may have overlooked. Another great option is to browse the internet for educational forums which host relevant discussions.

Major entrance tests almost always have the option to sit a practice test online before the actual test. Practicing the test beforehand will do wonders for your confidence. You’ll get the opportunity to familiarize yourself with the format. Moreover, you will get a chance to see your mistakes and learn from them.

Read Instructions

Most of these tests have rules over and above the general exam room etiquette. Check up on exam room protocols, like which writing instrument to use, how to identify yourself on the answer paper and so on. Be prepared for any eventualities to avoid last minute hassles.

The key thing is to keep calm and organized. These are standardized tests which provide fair and equitable results. Don’t see them as hurdles to be overcome; instead view them as a good opportunity to distinguish your application and gain a competitive edge.

Career Building Tips

Final Exams vs Continuous Assessment

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India, considered as one of the education hubs of the world, has one of the archaic education policy dating back to the colonial times. Over the years, no significant changes have been enacted in the policy to alter the approach in schools or colleges. Although, education is a key tool for development, however, the process has not seen any amendments over the years. Assessment in schools or colleges can be anything from a mere administrative impediment to a tense, future-determining practise for students, especially in India, where the education process lays a greater emphasis on the examination system.

Assessment is an important component of the education system, which ascertains whether the knowledge imparted has been grasped by the individual or not. However, a significant question which arises from the end of course assessment process (final exams) of India is – What is the real motive behind assessment? To compare the performance of various students or to facilitate their passing, or to assess their proficiency in a particular subject.

The irony, however, is that assessment has become too concentric around the academic activities. Rather than assessing the knowledge domain of the individuals, assessment at the end of course (read as final exams) is used to compare the performance of different individuals and ultimately ranking them according to the results. This not only promotes rot learning but also defeats the complete principle of teaching – “understanding of concepts”.

Purpose of Continuous Assessment

Many believe that the assessment model shouldn’t have to be postponed till the end of course/semester, instead tight, closed feedback/assessments can have two major advantages. One, teachers can make corrections to their teaching techniques in case of unsatisfactory results and two, students can rework on the weak areas before progressing; giving students a continuous stream of opportunities to prove their mastery. Further advantages of the continuous assessment model are:

Mastery of Concepts

The continuous model insures that, assessment is embedded in flow of learning. Currently our examination system is based on testing the seat time instead of the mastery of concepts, however, the continuous model ensures that the progress from one course to the other is based on mastery of concepts. Students who are weak in any particular course can correct their performance in due time before moving on to the higher concepts. The awareness of one’s performance and results insures that the student is aware about the results and can improve their weaker concepts.

Help for Teachers

One of the biggest challenges facing teachers today is the diversity of population in classrooms. Students come from different social, economic, and geographical backgrounds making the classrooms as diverse as they ever have been. Every student has their own weaknesses and strengths, some face difficulty in understanding the language, while others may feel uncomfortable in certain specific courses. This is where continuous assessment plays an important role of helping a teacher juggle easily between managing advanced and struggling students. Through continuous assessment, teachers can ensure that the class progresses as a whole without enforcing a sense of competition amongst the students.

Better management of content

The continuous assessment model ensures that the content creators can easily assess the data of efficacy of learning. It also helps the creators in assessing the learning pattern; consecutively comprehensive changes can be made to the teaching methodology which can further bring in positive changes. It assists teachers in effectively improving the skills by better implementation of resources through content management; for instance, teachers may be able to comprehensively ascertain the relationship between logical skill and language composition.

To conclude, the continuous model of assessment is a guidance oriented, formative, cumulative, and comprehensive form of assessment which is systemic and ensures equality in classroom. This model can effectively uncover interdisciplinary relationship between subjects and allow us to refine our understanding of the concept. This is in stark contrast to the final examination system which is more competition oriented.