Exam convergence in university education: a dangerous reform

Learning subjects at university and college is a long process that the student must integrate over a long period of time. Converging the exams will only exacerbate the shortcomings.

In addition, this reform of primary and secondary education, requested by psychopedagogues, is based much more on caring for “rest”, rhythms, than on the need to pass on solid knowledge and teach students the value of hard work, therefore turning them into future adults.

Transmitting deep knowledge that lasts

If we can only congratulate my colleague on his experience with exams outside the regulatory deadlines (while regretting the illegality of the matter, at the risk of appeal!), we cannot agree with the arguments he presents, nor with the hasty generalizations that, on the one hand, indicate a lack of knowledge about cognitive students’ processes, but they also throw resistance at faculties other than his own, which he does not know in depth.

When he writes “at two close meetings, on the second attempt, the material is still present in the mind, whereas if it comes six or eight months later, everything has to be started from scratch and takes up so much time that it cannot be used for other exams”, he neglects the fact that the knowledge that our students are supposed to acquire (it is not “transmitted” by the process of psittacism, it is built through courses, practical work, assessments) must be in-depth knowledge, not superficial knowledge that will disappear immediately after passing the exam. Such knowledge is meant to endure through sustained and tireless acquisition (including internships at specialized faculties). Moreover, it does not take into account the “understanding” of the discipline. For example, physics and mathematics require more understanding than memorization. The subject I teach, morphological sciences, requires the acquisition of a three-dimensional vision, even a four-dimensional one, when it comes to embryonic development. A student who has not mastered the appropriate ways of thinking in June will not be able to master them in July, because this work requires time and training. I dare imagine the same is true of historical criticism. Moreover, many failures can be explained by the lack of working method on the part of the student. Do we believe it will get better in 2 or 3 weeks? Even more simply, the key to success is also and above all hard work. When we haven’t done anything during the year, we offer the student the time needed to correct the deficiencies by not repeating the exam almost immediately.

Support smart memorization

When our colleague stigmatizes the faculty of medicine or pharmacy, where he condemns courses of “thousand pages” or learning the ingredients of medicines “by heart”, we reach downright misinformation. First, no lesson should require studying “by rote”, but rather intelligent memorization based on understanding the lesson. Then the course is not measured in “pages”, as we often hear, unfortunately, but in the integration of theoretical, practical, procedural concepts, based on written documents, oral courses, self-study, guided exercises or personal. Limiting these processes to “pages” is not only reductive, but completely negates the role of the teacher and his teaching team, whose goal is to facilitate learning and make the material understandable. We talked about memorization; our colleague suggests using the Internet to find out the composition of medicines. First, we might consider Professor Lagro’s competence in the field of health sciences. What would he then think of a doctor or pharmacist who, ignoring the basics necessary for his practice, takes from the computer in front of the patient the concepts of basic anatomy or pharmacology necessary for his practice?

A demagogic view of education

When our colleague laments the high failure rate in the first year of college, he ignores the real causes of the problem: the disastrous state of our secondary education (and the so-called “pact of excellence does not help”), the lowering of demands placed on our high school students, the progressive limitation of imparted knowledge, the standardization of tests and the fact that people come to university who have no business there. In short, the result of a demagogic vision of education and the mirage of “success for all” that neglects the uneven and irreparable distribution of talent (proof that, strangely enough, everyone accepts in the field of sports and music).

In short, we cannot unhesitatingly accept this superficial and misinformation-enhanced analysis published by our colleague, which seems to neglect the specificity of learning processes in universities, but which many colleagues are interested in the pedagogy that we ourselves studied. Some of the remarks backfire on his colleagues and this is reflected throughout the university.

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