Somewhere along the line while successive governments have jiggered about with education and politicians and commentators have blustered about exams getting easier they all seem to have forgotten about one particular aspect of education that always seems to get overlooked – the students.
Students didn’t make exams easier, politicians did. Politicians set targets for exam boards to reach, the students don’t set them. While Gove and his education department make bold announcements about changing the exam system yet again, did anyone think to ask the students? Did anyone wonder how it might affect the very people sitting these old style exams?
Exams became, seemingly easier, because education departments through various governments set targets, and that’s not a surprise in this target centred world, that exam boards and schools had to reach. It didn’t particularly matter how these targets were met, as long as they were because if they weren’t then the school or the exam board were a failure – apparently.
Exams, for me, should be merged into a thing of the past, or at least come after a process of continual assessment. Sixteen years after leaving school I still have to sit exams. I sat two last year and I have one next year. I sat one this year, would have failed it but for continual assessment. In the lead up to these exams I go through a year, at least, of continual assessment meaning that everything I study is processed and checked throughout the entire course and the exam, while needed to pass the course and move on, is not the stress ball it would be if I was having to revise over everything I’d done over the course and remember it all for the exam.
Continual assessment also means that if you’re struggling with a particular aspect of a course it’s dealt with there and then and doesn’t become highlighted near the end of a course or while revising for an exam. Continual assessment highlights strengths and weaknesses and that, overall, helps the students and the teachers.
I have written before about how much I hated exams, how much they stressed me out as a teenager and how much that stress made me fail a couple. I can’t imagine I was the only person this has happened too.
So maybe now, before any new system comes into place, despite yesterdays announcement, Gove and his ministers should ask the very people who will be sitting these exams how they would like to be educated.
I’m not entirely sure how Gove’s new exam system will change much. If there’s a high pass rate are students, teenagers, still going to be told that the questions were too easy, not that they did well, but that everything placed in front of them was too simple. Then the system gets overhauled again. Who benefits from all this? It’s certainly not the students.