Death to study-by-heart exams!

It’s 2015, the year that we’re supposed to have this:

hoverboard 2015

You would think it takes a lot of creative and smart minds to create something like this, right? So we should nurture creative thinking and independent development. Instead, it’s 2015 and all we have is this:


Heaps of standardized tests, old-school exams and repetitions of the same old testing procedures. Technology develops further, it changes the world we live in and influences our daily life. It even finds it way, admittedly quite slowly, into teaching itself. But why doesn’t it reflect in the way we evaluate students’ performances?

Too much work

If we would start evaluating every student individually and differently the work load to do so would be huge. Teachers would need to change their teaching and examination style. They would have to create new, complex exams. This would take quite a long time and I’m not even talking about nationwide placement tests (which also would have to get restructured). Besides the hassle of creating individual testing methodologies (or let’s rather say ‘evaluation methodologies’) educators would also have to cope with the question on how to actually assess their students. Instead of giving multiple choice or standardized exams to their students and later to their teaching assistants (or someone from craigs list) to check the exams they would have to spend time and brain power (!) on individual evaluations. Who wants that? Spending time for students.

Frustration, Fear & Pressure

Everybody knows that students feel pressure during exams. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We all have to deal with pressure when entering the ‘real’ word at the latest. So why not let them have this experience in an earlier stage, right? I do agree in parts here. But there is one flaw in the equation that many educators who support this statement make. Pressure does not equal fear and frustration.

These days many ‘old school’ teachers and instructors work with fear in order to ‘pressure’ students. They tell them if they don’t learn those 493 pages of their textbook by heart, their chances of passing the exam will heavily decrease.

Real World Relation?

How is that approach mentioned above still around? In times of the world wide web, google, wikipedia, mobile internet access, etc. When was the last time you were at work, you didn’t know something and you started to cite a book that you’ve read years ago and memorized?

Wait? You didn’t do that? What do you then if you don’t know the answer to a problem right away?

Oh. Google? Aha!

So if you google (search) for an answer in real life, why shouldn’t students be allowed to do that? In fact shouldn’t students be taught how to solve problems and use modern day technology to solve those problems faster and more efficiently? Wouldn’t it help us, as a civilization, if we would develop from repeating and studying by heart towards innovating and creating new solutions? After all it’s the innovations the improve a society and our way of living.

One of the hot topics in business as well as in education right now is Social Entrepreneurship. A very good example for the importance of innovative minds. If those entrepreneurs would only stick to stuff they already know they wouldn’t come up with solutions to new problems. Hence they have to evolve and innovate, research prior approaches and either improve on them or find new ways to solve issues at hand.

Kill Study-by-heart exams!

Therefore I say: Kill study by heart exams! Get rid of them. Open exams up and let students use whatever they want to use. Computers, laptops, tablets, the internet. Have real life environments with real questions. Sure, this means more work for educators but also more fun (and I mean fun not ‘fun’) checking exams or evaluating students. Seeing how students can excel and work on real life problems and not on some old-school, hyper theoretical problems (I’m also talking to you, viral Singaporean test!).

Before you start tearing me apart though: Obviously there are things that need to be learned by heart. I wouldn’t want my doctor having to google first before he starts to perform a surgery. I think we all get the point here though. More ‘real life’ needs to find its way into the classroom. And this rather sooner than later!


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