Examining the possibilities

As I gaze through my study window to see nothing but unbroken blue sky, and listen to the buzz of the mower making the first tentative cuts to usher in the new cricket season, it seems such a shame
that this is the time of year when young people are confined to their desks, revising for examinations. Be they SATs, GCSEs, AS Levels, A2 or university finals, I cannot help wondering if we’ve got it all wrong. 

What is an examination anyway? A test of how much we can cram into our heads and regurgitate throughout a short period. Is it education? Or is it just a convenient means to an end? Completion to satisfy a statistical table? How many of Britain’s highest achievers performed well in exams? I am sure there are many, but there will be an equal number who just had what it took to succeed despite a lack of attention at school.  Hard work, tenacity, people skills and personality may well take you much further in life than an ability to remember facts.

So why not revolutionise the curriculum? Make it more customer friendly and engage the boundless enthusiasm of today’s youth. Centre it on a basic core of literacy and numeracy with a healthy dose of scientific understanding and appreciation of foreign languages. The skills for life should be given greater emphasis, with focus on the creative (music, drama, art and design), the physical and the technological, as well as the personal skills that will help individuals to thrive in an ever more complex world, including interview techniques, critical thought and analysis, presentation skills and home economics. 

How can this be assessed? Simple – all the time. Young people could do this themselves, continuously. After all, it is their lives that they are preparing for. And if there is an absolute need for an examination, then make sure it takes place when the weather is foul and the days are short! 


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