I found myself in the unusual situation of defending my position on educating 11-16-year-olds about the world around them and was told that this was ‘A-level.’ Unfortunately this person held a senior position with an examining body. The topic in question was bringing current developments in the media into the classroom. Clearly not relevant. In a similar vein, a rather astute Year 9 pupil quipped just this week; “Miss, we aren’t really given an education, are we? We’re just taught how to pass tests.” In both cases I find a saddening reflection of our education system.
I am in no way advocating a return to some sort of 70s ‘freestyle’ education in which teachers rock up and we all get groovy and artistic, but it does bring me up short sometimes when I consider just how narrow a set of skills our children are learning in a school environment. Practically of course, there must be some way of assessing pupils. There must be some sort of benchmark of assessment in order to measure attainment, but when did this become the sole purpose of education?
It is an exam board’s job to communicate the to schools the nature and content of assessments to ensure pupils have an equal chance of success when measured against their peers. It is not an exam board’s job to make value judgements as to what is ‘worthwhile’ in a lesson. How often are employers heard to complain that young people leaving school to go into the job market lack the basic skills required? Might it be that the fault lies not in the ‘rigour’ or ‘discipline’ in schools, but rather that the goalposts for success in schools are so very narrow? A teacher, department leader, headteacher, would be perfectly within their rights to teach nothing but that which can be found on the different specifications. After all, this is how schools are judged. But what level of disservice does this do to the child, and more importantly, our future society and potential for economic growth.
Call me idealistic, but I look forward to a day when an exam board praises the inclusion of modern and critical thinking alongside the fixed curriculum, and a pupil can leave school with a greater and more rounded knowledge of the world than ‘what’s on the spec.”