The Problem with…. Examinations by @SPHHeads

We are now entering examination season and our students in the upper years are busy preparing. This started in earnest when over 140 Year 11 students took advantage of additional sessions run by teachers during the first week of the Easter holidays. By all accounts, they displayed a fantastic attitude and we congratulate them all for their positive approach. We will, of course, continue to do all we can to support all of them in achieving their very best.

This is a re-blog post originally posted by Stanley Park High School Head Teacher and published with kind permission.

The original post can be found here.

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[pullquote]Every student’s exams have significant implications for just about everybody[/pullquote]

As we have argued before, while examinations have their place, three articles in the papers just recently have drawn attention to the downside of high stakes examinations. Last week’s news included the fact that a number of teachers in the USA have been jailed for cheating the examination system. This is obviously unacceptable. Below the alarming photograph, published in the Times newspaper prior to the Easter break, shows parents risking their lives to climb a building in Hajipur, India. The reason ….. it was reported that they want to help their children taking examinations inside!

Finally, the same newspaper has been running a campaign about the increasing mental health issues amongst young people. Whilst there is clearly a range of contributory factors, most experts and commentators note the contribution of the increasing pressure of exams.

In my day I felt that my exam results counted for me and nobody else. This clearly has its weaknesses, but now every student’s exams have significant implications for just about everybody: themselves, their parents, their teachers, their school, their local authority and even their country. Do these high stakes put too much pressure on our young people? Opinions vary, but many health professionals and young people’s organisations have expressed a belief that they do, and this is a cause for concern.

So how do we overcome this? Firstly, we recognise the value of other forms of assessment: presentations, coursework, portfolios and practical work. Secondly, we need to review our current accountability system. As a nation, we should be wary of a system that promotes a factory model of education and encourages teaching to the test.

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