Hoops, not hope;Letter

21st May 1999 at 01:00
IN YOUR editorial of May 7, you comment that testing of pupils at 14 is to be welcomed because it is becoming a national event and make the claim - worrying if it were to be true - that the tests have become a rite of passage for young people.

However, it is possible to draw a different conclusion from what has become a collective obsession. In this country, pupils from five to 18 are subjected to a barrage of external tests that probably has no parallel anywhere else in the world.

The system is vastly expensive. It dominates the curriculum and teaching strategies, and it has spawned a complex and sophisticated industry, enlisting the time and energy of people whose efforts might be better directed towards more useful pedagogic ends.

There is not yet any persuasive evidence that it all has much effect, and the lack of confidence in the various tests and exams which young people must undergo is underlined by the numerous attempts made to evaluate their reliability.

It is equally difficult to share your relish at the sight of shelves in bookshops groaning under the weight of home study guides and revision aids, although the publishers will no doubt be rubbing their hands with delight at the prospect of being able to exploit this national neurosis. What an immature society we must be if, as you imply, this really represents a shift in educational culture.

Veronica Clerk, 10 Vicarage Drive, Eastbourne, East Sussex

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