Do You Hear The People Sing?

(Disclaimer: this post was written entirely from my perspective as a literature and linguistics university student, and I cannot speak in the name of any other study fields. Feel free to leave comments. Also, have some mandatory background music.)

‘t Is the time of the year again to cry while turning the pages of your syllabus. Oh, sweet exams, how I’ve missed you. For some unknown reason, every time I go through this it makes me feel like a revolutionary in the Battle for Better Education. I’m positively sure that I cannot be the only one who thinks that for some courses, the exam-system simply doesn’t work as well as it theoretically should.

For starters, it is no secret that the first year of every study field means to part the better from the “lesser” students, and more often than not this is done by study-by-heart courses. Those courses are easy enough to pass when you’re good at memorising lists of names, dates, works, etc., but they’re not as easy for those of us who cannot do that. People like that generally fail those exams and are seen as part of the group of “lesser” students. Am I the only one who thinks this is a faulty system? How is a bunch of parrots any better than students who aren’t as capable of studying things by heart?

On top of that, it happens too often that students drop out of what they chose to study in their very first year, simply because of all the study-by-heart exams they have failed. I have talked to too many people who changed what they studied not because they wanted to, au contraire, they were often very sad that they had to make a change – but they did it out of bare necessity. They simply knew they would not be able to make it through those exams, and thus changed to a study field where they didn’t have exams like that (as much). Then they’d at least have a diploma in something.

Frankly, this results in a negative outcome for both the university and the students themselves. Because of these study-by-heart exams, students who failed are forced to study something which they are not 100% passionate about, which has an impact on the rest of their lives. But besides that, universities are at loss, too. Because of these exams they often lose a bunch of analytical, creative, logically skilled and often ambitious and enthusiastic people, who could have made it far in the study field they first chose if they had just made it through those first exams.

What is my alternative, you ask? That’s a solid question, which I do not have a solid answer to yet. I feel like the improvement of university as a whole (and, allow me to be frank, getting rid of its elitist characteristics in general, not only regarding these exams) is a debate that does not get enough attention yet, and I hope this post made at least some of you think about it in a more critical way.

  • L. Parole

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