Exam factory is leaving its marks

13th March 2009 at 00:00

I am a student currently in Year 11 at a British Forces school in Germany. My concern is the debatable standard of education being received by primary and secondary pupils within the UK and the British Forces.

Rather than students being enriched with knowledge, they are being "taught to the test". Students are spending precious hours in school learning how to pass their exams instead of appreciating the material and topics they are studying. School should be a place where learning is fun and captivating, as well as being beneficial for pupils' maturing minds.

As a current GCSE student, it seems all that students are being taught is to regurgitate what appears on examiners' mark schemes. My Year 10 Shakespeare coursework on Othello only enabled me to study certain acts in detail, preventing me and my fellow students from appreciating the full value of the play.

In addition, the majority of the homework and lessons set for GCSE and key stage 2 and 3 Sats students are practice exam questions. This transforms school into an "exam factory" rather than a place of learning.

There are many examples (several noted in Warwick Mansell's book Education by Numbers: the Tyranny of Testing) which suggest that certain subjects in the arts and humanities are being disregarded as there is no longer time for them.

I believe that the UK education system could improve significantly from observing how other countries' education systems work - Finland's, for example. Finland was the highest performer in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) tests in 2007, but it has no standardised tests.

The abolition of KS3 Sats emphasises how even the Government is now starting to reconsider whether some exams taken are actually needed. I was relieved yet angered at this move; I spent the year preparing for the Year 9 Sats and remember being constantly told how important they were.

Hannah Winthorpe, Year 11 student, King's School, Gutersloh, Germany.

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