Education system: Culture of guides and guess papers

Many publishers are earning a lot from the sale of guides and guess papers. Students appearing for final exams or those who want to complete their homework often use them. It is surprising that even top-level students are also found to be buying them. This culture has crippled the knowledge base of the students, thus killing their creativity.

There may be several reasons for this. One, the teachers in public institutions do not give much time to teaching. A study has shown that the ‘time on task’ of public school teachers is below 50 per cent. Two, the students in public colleges do not attend classes regularly so they need support at the time of examinations. Three, the government has not made any extra effort to help students so this compels students to buy whatever extra material is available on the market. Four, the examinations are so content-centred that they do not demand student creativity and promote rote memorisation. Five, the exam questions do not cover all the contents, so so-called experts publish important questions and prepare cheap guides. Six, parents do not know what their children are studying and they only want their children to stay in their rooms with books open. Seven, students these days spend most of their time in playing games and listening to music on computers and watching TV leaving less time for studies. Eight, the education system has not promoted reading habit. Nine, the teachers themselves are the writers of such guides and guess papers encouraging students to buy them. Lastly, some parents buy the guides and guess papers for their children not trusting that their children can do better by reading the textbooks.

The sale of guides and guess papers is four times the sale of textbooks. Since the teachers do not want their names to appear in such publications, many papers indicate only ‘experienced teacher’ instead of the writer’s introduction. If the materials prepared were of standard quality the writers would not have disguised themselves. Thus, these guess papers are published in order to earn money and the students are cheated in the process, which is a criminal act.

In some cases, the teachers themselves use the guides and guess papers to solve problems in classrooms. The tutors use them a lot. If the teachers limit themselves to such sources, how can they educate the future generations? It is incredible to see a stack of guides and guess papers with those whose parents pay a lot to educate them in costly private schools.

All these indicate that our education system is only promoting students from one level to the other, but not their overall knowledge. The total system from curriculum decision to student evaluation is falling apart because there is no integration in government mechanism. Private schools are also promoting rote memorisation prescribing textbooks that are of benefit to them and not to students. Neither the public nor the private sector is promoting reading habit among students. This, in fact, should have started by teacher training institutions. Unfortunately, teacher training institutions are engaged in teaching the teachers rather than training them. The apex body of teacher training, the Human Resource Development Division of the MOES, is only conducting training in a ritual manner. Surprisingly, no one fails in these examinations.

The government’s in-service teacher training has some positive aspects, but the evaluation system is weak. In fact, the government has also not given any importance to teacher training because it has recently decided through an ordinance that all the working teachers with one year’s experience will be made permanent regardless of their training and licence. The principle of community schools, devolution of power and the establishment of Teachers Service Commission have all become worthless with this kind of decision. Thus, the principle of preparing good teachers has become defunct. When teachers themselves are ignorant of the student-friendly pedagogy how can we expect educational institutions to promote knowledge?

Teacher training and development of reading habit among students are essential. In foreign countries one can see even small children reading when they are free. This is because they are taught the importance of reading in their lives. In our context, the students are oriented towards getting through the exams and not towards gaining good knowledge. The education system should be reformed in such a way that student evaluation could test their creativity rather than their memory power. Teachers should equip themselves with modern knowledge and have the capacity to guide students not through guess papers but through their own resourcefulness. Teachers’ professional development should not be compromised with quality. Students’ reading habit should be promoted. This will only discourage the publication and use of guides and guess papers.

Dr Wagley is professor of Education, TU