Monday, September 03, 2012

Why the proposed changes to the exam system are wrong.

Education Secretary Michael Grove appeared on BBC Breakfast this morning to discuss the opening of 55 Free Schools and how wonderful this is. Firstly it's important to note that Free Schools are different to Academies. Free Schools are state-funded and free from Local Authority control whereas Academies are state-funded and free from Local Authority control. I jest; the big difference is that Academies were created by the previous Labour government whereas these 'much better' Free Schools were created by the Coalition government.

Okay serious now - the difference is that Free Schools aren't just state schools breaking away they're brand new schools set up by individuals. That's the theory as presented to the public. The theory not presented to the public is that these will be run by organisations; a slow weaning from state-funded to PFI schools with minimal oversight.

Vending machines in the hallways; books covered with corporate sponsorship and probably assemblies detailing all the good works your local branch of Mega-Overlord are doing and how you can help with every purchase of a Mighty Meal.

So not good. However near the end the questioning turned to the Great English Debacle and how Gove most certainly did not pressure any boards to alter the grades. Because as we know constantly harping on in the newspapers about how the board structure needs to be re-examined is no way equal to pressure. However the important bit was the dropping of modules and the re-institution of final exams.

Okay modules have had a bad press mostly from journalists who've never had to sit them. The common line that seems to be taken is "Hey failed your module just sit it again and submit your highest marks" now beyond the fact that all that should happen is that the boundaries for a specific grade would go up that doesn't make modules a bad thing.

Every so often the media notes that final exams tend to be taken during hayfever season and how unfair it is on sufferers. One bad day and bam a whole year's of work down the drain; and this is what Gove somehow thinks of as "fair"?

He's not trying to make the system fair he's trying to make it simple in the same way that First Past the Post voting is simple and hey (after a highly biased set of misinformation attack ads ) we voted for that didn't we? Same principle - everyone takes one exam at the same time and their performance on that day sets their entire future. So no pressure there then.

This is politics pure and simple- the need to pander to the public (read - media) and show that they are doing the job in educating the children of this country. However as I've already pointed out lessons in History and English etc. aren't about education they're about social indoctrination. I don't care if someone coming out of school can analyse the works of Byron so long as they've heard of him. I don't care if they can quote the Magna Carta so long as they know what it is (or more accurately thanks to the hatchet job done on it - was). In those respects modules work better than finals exams.

So where don't modules work? They don't work when the lessons are also modularised. A case of taking the Biology module and then passing to the Chemistry module and never discussing Biology again. Modules have to be designed to reinforce the lessons already learnt. A simple example would be History in which events do pass in a influential manner. Teach them William I history and that influence the Richard III history and the need for Magna Carta. Move to the loss of French assets and how this influenced not just the monarchy's relationship with this country, but its commerce. This is turn influences the industrial revolution and so on.

Each module has to reference the work of the previous otherwise students are likely to forget it. Likewise presented as a cohesive set provides greater links that can aid retention and recall. Better yet it's possible to mould the curriculum as a whole to be cohesive. History teaches William I while Geography shows the population structures of that time and English brings up manuscripts to show how much the language has changed. 'Science' shows what was thought of as correct and how we'd go about testing it today. Maths... well maths can do its thing and support all the other's.

These aren't easy, but then again shouldn't be that hard either; what is wrong is an attempt to return to 50's style education just because the current bunch in charge have a hankering for it.

1 comments:

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