We took our mid-term exams last week. Today we got our exams back. BUT this was no “regular” handing back of exams like in the United States. I’m not trying to weigh the education system between the US and India; in no way am I saying that one is better than the other. Both have pros and cons. They are just different.
Before the Sir handed back our mid-term exam essays he pointed out that we did pretty good overall. Then he held my mid-term exam up and talked to me one-on-one in front of the entire class. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to stand up or sit down so I just stayed put in my seat. He told the entire class that I did well for my first exam and that my exam was shortened since I haven’t learned all the material they’ve learnt. He microphoned my score out loud to the entire class: 30/40 (75%). The entire class applauds for me. He said this was good score. I didn’t know if it was good or bad; I just went with his words.
He went on to the other students’ scores, ranging from the highest score. He opened another student’s (his name was Bobo) exam and showed the drawings in the exam, pointing out that not only did Bobo write about the ideas of Bengali film, Bobo showed it through his drawings, too. This went on for a bit before the pattern slowed down towards the end.
I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears. Did the Sir really tell the entire class my exam score? I understand I’m not in America anymore therefore I can’t expect the India education system to be operating on the same system as the U.S. I looked to the two students on my left side and asked them, “Is this normal? Like having everyone know your score?” They looked at me with a “DUH” sort of look and nodded yes. “Really? Funny. Back in the U.S. all exam scores are confidential,” I explained. They laughed at me then asked, “Why is that? Why don’t you want to share your score?”
Me: “Well scores are confidential so that we don’t discriminate against our peers. If someone flunked the exam we wouldn’t know; if someone tops the exam we wouldn’t know. In this way we won’t discriminate whether who’s smarter than whom; we’re all smart.”
The two students next to me: “I guess it’s the other way around here in India. If you know who’s on top and who’s last then it will motivate the people at the bottom to do better the next time. In this way you will know who’s working hard and who’s not. It creates healthy competition.”
Both “exam-handing-back” systems create healthy competition in the education world. Both have pros and cons. Both work for their students. Both work for their education systems.
“So how does the professor tell you confidentially what your score is on the exam in the U.S?” asked one of the two boys sitting next to me.
“Well, they hand you back your exam quietly, flipped upside down so one sees it, and then when you receive your final score for the entire class it’s usually online, in the internet. Only you can access this information so no one will know if you failed or passes a course.”