Focus on tests led to exam impropriety

16th December 2011 at 00:00

For a long time now teachers have had to accept that a lot of important information is conveyed not in official documents, but at these sorts of seminars, and in the off-the-cuff remarks of examiners and other insiders. Occasionally examiners get carried away and go beyond their brief. For the most part, it can't really be called cheating, but it does create a fog around the exam system that undermines attempts at transparency.

The real scandal is not that examiners are telling people about how the exams work - it's the fact that what they are saying is true, and that forces teachers to teach even more narrowly to the test. So the far more insidious story here is about how exams have come in recent years to dominate and distort teaching and learning. As Thomas Huxley said 150 years ago, "students learn to pass, not to know. They do pass, and they don't know."

Dr Kevin Stannard, Director of innovation and learning, the Girls' Day School Trust, London.

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