Inappropriate educational testing procedures
Increasing reliance upon examinations in school and university systems has tended to put pressure on teachers to orient their lessons to expected tests rather than to exploration of the subject or to the students' mental and creative development. The strain imposed on teachers, pupils and parents may be such as to constitute a risk to mental health. Such tests may occur at a psychologically vulnerable period of life, aside from stress caused by the social stigma attached to failure. Examinations establish in the individual a state of mind, behaviour and habits which are the negation of the aims of education. Where promotion is in large part dependent upon examination success, the examination procedures have a restrictive effect on transfer between grades. Marks, whether they be obtained from teacher-set examinations or from standardized tests, are expressions of relative value. At their worst, they are expressions of inconsistent, subjective judgments by teachers on the basis of unreliable, written examinations of unknown validity. At their best they leave absolute judgments (as to what shall constitute a pass level) to be stated in terms of the proportion of children who shall be allowed to continue to the next grade. In neither case do they recognize the continuity of learning, which is not divisible into discrete and convenient administrative packages. Thus, examinations may also be accused of being irrelevant, not so much by their nature as in their conventional use.
Pupils need a goal such as examinations in order to apply themselves to study; educators need some yardstick for assessing pupils' progress; and employers need some way of assessing prospective employees' capabilities. Examinations may not be the perfect answer to these needs but are better than any other presently suggested alternative.