School Exams Fail To Provide Worthwhile Educational Assessment

News / February 17, 2012

The effect of schools pressurised to achieve educational performance targets has led to a plethora of exam qualifications that have sneaked under the radar with little academic value. The educational games played by teaching resources in school have left children with vocational courses that fail to provide higher educational benefits or employment opportunities.

At a critical time in a child’s educational journey, confused and bewildered children naturally turn to their teachers for guidance on the best academic option to pursue at GCSE. In turn teachers hassled to perform in school league tables have been coercing children to take the easier options to maximise the grades at GCSE. The fact that it has taken years for the Department of Education to address this issue is almost criminal.

The jamboree of exam results each August has consistently raised concern that the continuous improvement in results was symptomatic of a failing system rather that improved academic ability or teaching resources. But at last the DfE seem to have grasped the nettle and are seeking to remove the soft option exam qualifications they have induced.

Pressurising teachers to excel through measurement of their school’s position in a league tables has induced all manner of manipulation. Teachers tend to be intelligent, it goes with the job. The fact they have identified alternative ways of maximising the points in exams would appear almost an insult if they did not. Yet the Department for Education seem bewildered this could happen. A senior spokesperson at Edexcel, the key examination board responsible for setting and marking GCSE  exams said in confidence that teachers don’t have to teach a lot, and that there was a lot less to learn with Edexcel exams that rival exam boards.

The focus by the DfE is to return to the core subjects that provide children with options for higher educational and employment opportunities. The investigative journalism conducted by newspapers that highlighted the issue and sparked the review needs considerable praise. If left to the DfE, exam boards and the teaching resources in school the whole sorry story may have run for years to come. Although corrective actions are in hand they will take time to effect. In the meantime senior figures in the government past and present, the DfE and exam boards need to take a look in the mirror and reflect on who caused the issue or failed to spot the trend. They might not like what they see. But perhaps the better judgement should be the realisation that hundreds of thousands of children had their educational and employment changes screwed up.

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