What are the drawbacks of the examination system in countries of the Global South?

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Although education and examination systems vary across the world, testing is very common in all countries and regions. There are international examination systems and also examination systems developed on a country-by-country basis.

In economically disadvantaged countries, a couple of drawbacks to examination systems deal with 1) students not having access to quality education to prepare them to tackle the content on the test and 2) students not having the test-taking skills needed to demonstrate what they know in the context of a test.

These issues are obviously exacerbated by inequalities within social systems. Students from wealthy families have access to better education, and in some cases, tutors and advance copies of exams. India was rocked by cheating scandal in recent years that was fueled by the inequalities present within Indian society: students from wealthier families and higher castes were able to buy questions that leaked before exam time, creating even further inequality in the education system and test results that did not accurately portray the academic skill of test-takers.

Finally, the tumultuous environment of underdeveloped countries can cause problems in examination systems. For example, in a war-torn country, what happens if conflict breaks out and exams can’t be given? They likely will not be rescheduled, thus putting students behind a semester or more. Quality and meaningful exams depend upon stability and consistency. In some countries, those things are luxuries rather than a given.

Deshpande, J. V. “Examining the Examination System.” Economic and Political Weekly, vol. 39, no. 16, 2004, pp. 1563–1565. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4414889.

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There are a few major drawbacks to using an examination system in underdeveloped countries.  Of course, this does not mean that the system has no value.  It simply means that there are problems associated with it.

One of the major problems with an examination system is that many of the students in such a country will be unprepared to take examinations.  This can lead to situations like the one in Libya last month (August, 2013) in which every student who took university entrance exams failed.  This can lead to a loss of faith in the educational system as well as possible pressure to make the tests easier so that students can pass.

A second problem is that this system might perpetuate inequality in the country.  If there is an examination system, it will feel like it is fair because everyone is being judged on an objective basis.  But the fact is that only the children of the elites will have a good chance at getting an education that will allow them to pass the examinations.

Finally, an examination system can be very expensive.  Tests must be administered properly and marked properly.  This costs a lot of money and can lead to students being charged more than they can afford to pay.

All of these issues make an examination system less appealing for use in a developing country.

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