Exam headache for union

4th February 2000 at 00:00
THE EDUCATIONAL Institute of Scotland has been landed with a major headache over the determination of some members to ditch internal assessment from Higher Still courses. They complain it is adding significantly to teacher and pupil workloads.

The union's executive council, meeting in Edinburgh last Friday, rejected a draft paper from its education committee. Critics said its proposal to replace internal assessment in the fifth and sixth years with three "mini national examination diets" would be highly restrictive.

The committee's paper confessed that the resolution from the union's June annual conference seeking the removal of internal assessment from Higher Still "presents the EIS with something of a dilemma". Internal assessment could not be regarded as educationally unsound for one stage of education but acceptable for others such as Standard grade, it states.

But the suggested "medium-term strategy" came under fire from Eric Baillie and Danny McDonald, stalwarts of the Dundee local association. The paper proposed that external exams should replace internalassesssment at the end of each of the three 40-hour units in every Higher Still course.

Mr Baillie opposed such a "bureaucratic nightmare." Mr McDonald pointed out that the EIS had always supported some form of internal assessment, as it gave teachers a degree of control.

In the short term, the EIS paper proposed tackling workload problems by simplifying internal assessment procedures.

But this was not enough to rescue the paper and the union now faces a more fundamentalist debate on whether its objections to internal assessment are educational or pragmatic. Norma Anne Watson, the EIS education convener, argued during the annual conference in June that "a simple end of course assessment is a blunt instrument".

But teething troubles still clearly beset the new approach to examining pupils, and the Higher Still Development Unit has already been forced to issue advice to schools about the operation of internal assessment after mounting concern that pupils were being tested at too early a stage when they complete their first unit (TESS, January 21).

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