Social Scientist. v 17, no. 196-97 (Sept-Oct 1989) p. 86.


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K. RAMAKRISHNAN*

Entrance Examinations: Iniquitous Instrument

ENTRANCE TESTS PERPETUATE EDUCATIONAL INEQUALITY

In our country an objective type entrance examination has now become the major, if not the sole, screening instrument for selection to professional education as well as for employment. Ironically, in the United States of America from where we borrowed this practice, more and more prestigious institutions are abandoning the use of such tests and many judicial decisions have struck down the use of such tests by employers.1 The reasoning goes something like this : The validity of the tests for selecting the appropriate candidates has not been established; however the disadvantaged groups (such as the blacks and ethnic minorities in the US scene) are evidently affected adversely. Thus there is room to suspect that the tests are unfairly discriminatory. It is in this context we feel that the assumptions regarding the 'Objectivity* of these types of examinations require a more detailed discussion, particularly in our context where applicants for education and jobs come from widely varying backgrounds.

We must remember that the so called objective type examination is objective with respect to ONLY the evaluation of the performances in the examination and NOT with respect to the design of the examination itself. We must also recognize that such an examination acts as an eliminating mechanism rather than a selection instrument. After all no one will claim that ALL those who are not admitted to, say, IITs, are not fit for the programme. It is this aspect of these examinations which is crucial and has far reaching implications to the perpetuation of inequalities.2 First we show that these examinations can not claim that they select only the most appropriate candidates. We argue that the error of selecting the inappropriate candidates can not be even estimated, let alone eliminated. Hence, we suggest, that our aim should only be to reduce the other kind of error, viz that of rejecting acceptable candidates. Only then, we can be sure that the screening mechanism is not biased through considerations other than that of appropriateness for the programme in favour of a small group. Let us now look at ^ome of the adverse consequences of the biases introduced through aspects such as the following:

* School of Management, Bharathiar University, Coimbatore. ^



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