Answer papers to be given back to students:
Revamping university examinations
Under the directions of Higher Education Minister S B Dissanayake
answer scripts will be given back to the students for their perusal.
This new reform will provide the students with the opportunity to
discuss their answers with the lecturers.
“In universities and technical colleges the lecturers prepare and
grade the answer sheets. After that the lecturers should hand over the
answer papers to the students. If there is any problem the students can
question the lecturer. It is good for the lecturer and good for the
students” stated Higher Education Minister S B Dissanayake.
He further explained that problems occur in the case of essay type
answers, as in the case of subjects such as political science and
sociology. “These are crucial because they are analytical questions. In
the case of Maths it is either correct or incorrect.” In analytical
questions the lecturer must weigh the arguments, see how strong the
students’ arguments are – not necessarily what the lecturer’s opinion
is” explained Minister Dissanayake.
At times a student does not agree with the answer scheme, the student
can appeal to the examination department, for a second examiner to
review the paper. The minister said that questioning the examination
paper does not in any way compromise it.
“In fact questioning the examination paper lends more credibility to
the process. What harm is there is giving back the answer script to
students.” The student is not questioning the integrity of the lecturer;
the student merely wants to discuss the answer paper.
I V Edirisinghe, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, now retired, with 41
years of experience as a lecturer at the Colombo University for, claims
that he had always supported the idea. “We used to give students their
assignments back and they go through the papers. I remember there were
occasions when students were dissatisfied. Some of those students came
to lecturers and lecturers had to justify their assessments” said I V
Edirisinghe, Senior Lecturer in Sociology.
Edirisinghe stated that any student who is dissatisfied with results
can meet the lecturer concerned and raise questions. The lecturer has to
defend his assessment before the student.
This facilitates healthy communication between lecturer and students.
Although it is not in effect in Sri Lanka yet, this has been the
practice in many other countries, such as the US.
“Of course this is impractical with a large group, for instance
Sociology first year in Colombo University numbers in 100’s. But at the
special level, number of students are low, 30 at the most.” Edirisinghe
explained that even in the case of larger batches, with enough resources
this can be put into practice.
More lecturers should be appointed to academic departments bringing
student lecturer ratio down, preferably to 1:20. Another lecturer, who
wanted to remain anonymous, claimed that this would be impractical for a
country like Sri Lanka. In foreign countries this is possible because
the less number of students. “But there are over 4000 students in our
Arts faculties alone.” He pointed out that collecting all the answer
scripts back from all those students would be a rather difficult task.
Then there is a problem about the medium. In countries like America
there is only one medium – English.
But here we have Sinhala, Tamil and English Medium. “Our students are
simply not ready for this sort of change. They could try this as a pilot
project, but it is doubtful that it will work.”
“This move has a positive side to it,” opined a Colombo University
student, who wished to remain anonymous. “There is a lot of competition
among students to get good grades. It is very hard to get good grades
for certain units, since the papers mainly require essay type answers.”
He explained that however much some students tried, they hardly got
favorable grades. “But some students get good grades over and over.”
Since students did not get to see the answer scripts, students never got
the chance to learn from their mistakes.
“Although the lecturers used to give some guidance, it was still hard
to find a long term solution,” said the student.
With all the pros and cons there is no doubt that if students are
given the answer scripts, thereby allowing them to engage in discussion
with lecturers, it would be very beneficial for the students to hone
their examination skills.
Students will know exactly what sort of answers are expected.