I am watching a rickshaw driver’s daughter on verge of tears even after securing incredibly high grades in twelfth.
NEET, the entrance exam for medicine was her tormentor, so I was tempted to look at it. The first webpage promising to help me crack it brought forth an insight into our continuing quest of destroying learning.
NEET tells me that, if I can pick the right number from 100/110/120/130 as lifespan of RBC, I am more deserving to become a doctor than someone who can’t.
While we can take credit of finding more and more creative ways of destroying learning from education, Multiple Choice Question is unarguably our greatest achievement in trying to keep one fifth of humanity devoid of any learning. It is a Russian roulette that we play every year and neatly shoot knowledge in its temple.
India has only one objective for every policy and that is to prevent those in charge from getting accused of malpractice. As the accusations fly in from the land of subjectivity, every system is designed to be completely objective. This means that we reduce every decision-making to a game of numbers and quantify every human quality down to fractions.
Our love of using numbers to decide fate of the nation is evident everywhere. We have discovered wonderful idea of awarding any and every job to the lowest (L1) bidder, whereby destroying concept of quality in everything government does. But with MCQ system, we have gone one step further. We have destroyed the very essence of the concept of knowing.
The most beautiful part of MCQ is that it is entirely possible to make someone “know” the right answer about the life span of RBC without giving him any idea about what a red blood cell is. The number and word can be connected without requiring any empirical meaning attached to either.
This leads us to the philosophical realm of what is meaning and what is knowing. Anything can be attached a real meaning only by connecting it to the foundation of reality where we anchor the edifice of knowledge, brain has no facility of retaining free-standing and isolated bits of information.
When brain is confronted by the massive task of grasping how the complex circulatory system works, it needs to build it a system with rules and interacting components. Only after doing that it can fully imbibe the survival duration of RBC. The “knowledge” in how long RBC survives is not a number, it a in understanding life and death of a cell that is part of a complex system, that the beholder of the “right” answer of the MCQ may or may not be aware of.
Though knowing the numerical answer may have importance, but the MCQ-induced deconstruction of knowledge does something horrible. As it induces condensation, it creates an illusion that lot more can be added to what one can demand from the students to “know”, so far too many subjects can be covered in the curriculum without bothering to check if a student has time enough to actually understand so much.
This system leads to a completely imaginary division of students in terms of smaller and smaller fractions while students get further and further away from knowing. And this destruction of learning is only because we fear evaluation of subjective answers that can actually indicate the level of understanding far better than MCQs.
If we wish to reintroduce the idea of learning to our education system, we need to return to subjective exams designed to prevent mugging and regurgitating of rote answers. This is possible only if we remove MCQs, reduce curriculums drastically and, most importantly, trust our teachers to be honest.
It is a risk that must be taken, or we will end up with a nation of useless rote machines.