Barriers to learning #4 – Examinations

This is the final of four posts (for now) looking at various barriers to learning inherent in the current education system.

Once upon a time, exams were like currency. They were a short hand for your ability, and they were used both by ‘centres of higher learning’ (as my old VC used to say) and out there, in the ‘real world’,usually for the purposes of getting a job. Unfortunately, that system is now bankrupt.

University entrance is based either on predicted outcomes, interviews, or university set exams. More worryingly successive governments have been told by employers that students aren’t leaving school with the skills they need them to have. Now until recently, perhaps the obvious response to those complaints was to make changes to the exam system. However, I would argue that is no longer the case. The time has come to be gone of the blessed things once and for all.

If we get rid of exams, we free up teachers, schools and learners to engage in some genuninely useful and enriching learning. As a result of those students will gain:

  • Time, to learn deeper and learn in more appropriate ways
  • A portfolio that reflects their ability, both academically and in terms of skills particular employers may be seeking.
  • Real world experience, from which they can make better informed decisions bout their futures
  • Contacts and a network of people to call on when they do come to seek employment, either for references or perhaps a job.

Of all the changes I’ve mentioned (here, here and here) this would be the biggest obstacle, party because of the history of the system, and partly because they can still be used to sort the wheat from the chaff, which does seem to still be an unwritten aspect of current government policy.

Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start trying though!

Dave Stacey

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