Today the nation’s 6-7 and 10-11 year olds (years two and six) will set off for school knowing they have got ‘exams’.

Whether it is reasonable to ask that children so early in their educational development MH900439442should be subjected to pressures associated with standard assessment testing is an open debate.  It certainly deserves a carefully constructed reply.  And we can discount anything issued in statements from the relevant government departments, such as:  ‘These are merely assessments, they will not impinge upon your child’s prospects for future education’ and ‘There is no cause for concern’.

Yeah, right.

‘Don’t worry’ is a standard treatment.  When you hear it from an elected official; worry.

And if we are asked to believe that every child who sallies forth this morning will not do so with their equivalent of that same official platitude ringing in their ears, that is the strong ‘encouragement’ of their ambitious parents, we are being accused undeservedly of naivety.   In a child’s world, parents are officialdom; anxiety to please is a pressure, and competition is a test of those friendships and attachments so important at this formative age.

When will Academia finally admit it does not understand its own market place?  When will ‘elected’ politicians accept that not everything is determined by a league table or a series of ‘targets’?  It might be great for modern marketing, but it is not for kids.

In a sense, I have a stake in this.  But at the same time I have to emphasise I am somewhat unusual in my antipathy towards ambition and material greed.   So, in another sense, I have no personal axe to grind.

When I was a child of ten or eleven, there was an instituted testing system called the ‘Eleven Plus’.  All children of my time (other than those in private education) took this test, and upon its results went on to Grammar or Secondary School education.  I failed it.

Did that shape my future education?   You bet it did.  Did it prejudice my career choices?  Absolutely.

It was another twenty years before I sat another test to uncover what apparently someone, somewhere, missed.  I took the Cattell IQ test for British Mensa and passed with an IQ of 160, placing my IQ rating in the top 0.5 percent of the population.  At the time, as for most of my adult life, I was running my own business.  It did not affect me then, nor does it now.   This year I resigned my Mensa membership because I have been inactive for some years.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I enjoyed my education, probably because it did not stretch me to the maximum.  I have spent the rest of my life trying to compensate for that deficiency.  I became the head boy of my school and took a number of examinations when I left, but they alone could not help me recover the lost ground the Secondary Ed. label produced.  I repeat, it did not matter so much to me.  I was a child of the ‘sixties.

I am upset, nevertheless, to see our education model slithering surreptitiously back in the direction of that late ‘fifties early ‘sixties model.  For some reason we feel it is essential that our education targets match those of China or Japan, that somehow we have to ‘lead the world’ in education.  Our case is not the same.  Our children are not, by and large, striving to rise from abject poverty, and the society waiting to welcome them is not so narrow it can only encompass an intake of youthful genius.  The extreme danger is that it will become so.  One of the immense advantages of Western civilisation is its sense of breadth and balance.  If we lose that through an attempt to embrace Academia as a growth industry rather than a service we risk narrowing our personal focus.

Therein lies insanity.

 

 

 

7 Comments

  1. I am with you on this Frederick. Standardised testing only tests what kids know at a certain point; not what they can do.
    My oldest two grandsons are also participating in standardised tests this week (they run Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday)). The NAPLAN tests are given in Years 3, 5, 7 & 9, and cover language, reading & numeracy.
    The tests are supposed to be a means of assessing teaching rather than testing how kids perform, but are often used to grade both kids & schools on their performance. Trouble is, all kids & all schools are not equal.
    State schools receive much lower levels of funding (even of govt funding) than do private schools; wealthier areas have better resourced schools than poor areas; schools with a high percentage of ESL speakers, as well as socially and economically disadvantaged students, often attract poorer teachers. So all of them are starting from different levels, and that’s not counting individual abilities.
    Modern western education systems seem also to focus on academics and turning out university-bound students. They barely cater for the practical-, or the artistic-, or any other-oriented child.
    It’s about time that changed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I agree. It isn’t possible to avoid a connection between ‘assessment’ and ‘grading’. We are just reintroducing the Eleven Plus by the back door. In fairness, some attention is being paid at last UK to alternative skills, and I hope this signals a beginning of more practical streams of education, geared to the needs of industry and the trades. But yes, I am sorry Australia has also chosen this road – the troubles associated with it of course apply equally on this side of the world. Here it is largely a north-south divide, and dispiriting how many good teachers are wooed by the south, despite the huge cost of living.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Fads come and go – in education as well as anywhere else. I can attest to that as I am a former teacher (who was often frustrated at the idiocy of some of the fads over the years.
        Most of them came from the USA – where they had already failed!!!

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  2. We have the same damnable emphasis on standardized testing in the US now also. In my state they start testing kids at six and then every year after. They say it is to assess teachers, but I am sure the kids feel examined as well. And it alters the way teachers teach. I hate the whole thing. Sad to hear the UK isn’t smarter than the US about this.

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  3. Thank you for this insightful update! The only silver lining that I detect is that the internet is teeming with information. The curious child can learn much outside the classroom. I know several home schooled children who ‘only’ spend a few hours a day studying and are gaining information and knowledge much faster than their compatriots in mainstream schools. So, yes I believe that our entire system of education from standardized test to classroom needs intelligent overhaul.

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    1. The question this poses might be: is formal education any longer needed at all? Apart from social issues, the child can, as you say, learn much outside the classroom. Given disciplinary considerations, I agree; they can learn much faster, too. Would it be better to forgo ‘school’ altogether and operate a monitoring system which encourages children to fall naturally into the stream of learning, practical or academic, that suits them best? Somebody out there must be talking about it, surely?

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