Essex Chronicle Thought for the Week June 6th 2013
Students across the country are now in the full swing of the annual exam hall rituals, testing their ability to recall and apply their subject knowledge. In August all will be revealed when students receive the grades that define their achievements, opening or closing doors, and schools are held to account. The stakes are incredibly high.
It seems a good moment to reflect on the value we place on examination results relative to all the other elements that constitute ‘a good education’. Exams don’t capture the extent to which young people contribute to their communities; their capacity for moral leadership; their commitment to artistic and sporting excellence; the empathy and support they give to people living in poverty across the world or their willingness to tackle prejudice.
Exams don’t provide a measure of how effectively someone works in a team; their ability to take initiative or to respond calmly in a crisis; their ability to undertake a long-term in-depth study; their skills in dealing with people from different backgrounds or their powers of persuasion or to be thoughtful, kind and tolerant. Obviously enough, exams only measure what can be measured in exams!
Meanwhile, as a society, we place considerable value on all the other attributes. I think we need a system that takes greater account of this bigger picture and allows young people to show more clearly what strengths they have and the full extent of their personal achievements. I’m currently working with people from across the education sector to devise an English qualifications framework that gives greater weight to these other dimensions; that gives credit for aspects of learning that are not included in exams but that employers and colleges value. I hope to be able to give more details in due course – so watch this space.
In the meantime, let’s all remember when the exam results come out, that however important they are, they only tell a part of the story for any student and for any school.