With a new school year starting we need to ask ourselves are we putting too much importance on the results that our young people come out with?
In these days of league tables where the school’s position is often seen as more important than what is actually taught.
Now, at last, our students’ lives are settled and a new term in a different class, school or even university looms ahead. Most of these new places have been selected solely on the basis of exam results, but are we taking these too seriously?
It is amazing that only a small proportion of our lives dictates our success or failure as a person in later life. One or two sittings at a desk in an examination hall, possibly suffering from hay fever, a summer cold or lack of sleep is all that it takes to determine a single mark that brands us and our abilities for life permanently.
Are we branding them for life with results of a few hours in an exam hall when they could be ill, have hay fever or just not good at exams?
These results are labelling the schools and the child often unfairly.
Not only have students been branded but so have our educational institutions. Schools have had their results analysed and dissected minutely and conclusions made solely on the basis of these analyses. Some schools have been hailed as great beacons of success in the educational world, others, dismal failures that need to be closed down. Playing the numbers game is a dangerous occupation.
Say for example you have three schools, and one of them is judged as failing. Is it really failing, or are we letting a snap shot: a few days of its year, determine the way the community sees it for the rest of the year.
One of the difficus of judging schools by exams in many respects theyr’e random the totally random it doesn’t just depend on how they st how they’re feeling there are so many more factors that affect their results. a sc that achieve an c a d grade for one child a lower grade for some children may be the equivalent to them it may be a greater teaching achievement than an A level.
When it is stated, for example, that one in three schools in a certain area has failed, the full facts have not been taken into account. To illustrate this, I once saw a photo taken by a student who was also concerned about such superficial judgements having too much credibility. The photo was of three sheep, three completely different sheep—one a white merino with soft white wool, the second an entirely black sheep and the third a rare breed of sheep that looked more like a goat. It would be ludicrous to base any conclusion on a comparison of these sheep. Similarly, it is nonsense that schools are being judged solely on exam results. Of course exam results are going to be higher if a school has managed to persuade the more exam –orientated students to join their ranks. If a school has been through a period of upheaval, has a sudden in-take of non-English-speaking migrants or takes more interest in nurturing those who need more assistance, of course it will not compare well with other more settled, smug places.
On the subject of the examinations themselves, does a GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education), an ‘A’ level, an International Baccalaureate or even a degree in a subject prepare you fully for the rest of your working life? While certain people may be able to get a job like selling bikinis in Harrods because they have a music degree, (my experience), most rely on their exam grades to prove their worth when applying for a job, but it is common knowledge that having a qualification in a subject does not necessarily make you the ideal person for a job requiring such knowledge. I know for certain, passing an examination in ‘Music and Movement’ (a type of improvised dance) with first class honours never made me an ideal candidate for a career as a dancer!
Looking behind the scenes, when I was teaching, rather than concentrating on educating the students for life, I taught only what they needed to know for the examinations. I did this, not because I wasn’t interested in educating well, it was because the time given to teach the subject was far too little. In English Literature, for example, to read and study the books fully in class was impossible because of time constraints. Students were given summaries of the characters and plot and encouraged to learn about how to answer expected questions by using the internet. None of these activities actually involve sitting down and reading through the whole book for pleasure—the original intention of the author.
While human beings set the papers, mark the papers and sit for them, perfection is impossible. Many students are subject to the whims of the examiners. When I used to mark exam papers in the subject, I would invariably be at odds with the given guide lines for marking. I was frustrated when I could not award marks when I believed the student had a good understanding of the text, but could not express it well enough to gain the marks they deserved. In addition, many questions expected the students to provide extra information not requested. Students were expected to guess what was wanted. Get it right and you got top marks, guess wrongly and you failed.
While it is important to have some measure of ability, sometimes we can put too much trust on exam results. The outside world demands more that the ability to remember and repeat facts!