Wake up at the back

11th February 2000 at 00:00
IT SEEMS from Neil Munro's recent report that the Higher Still internal assessment regime is being revamped. The concerns of pupils and teachers have in part got through to the elite class of Scottish education. Even Sam Galbraith in his Christmas message to schools omitted Higher Still from his roll-call of achievement, and rightly so.

Higher Still cannot and will not improve until one question is squarely faced. How on earth can every pupil, capable of passing Highers in May be good enough to pass in the previous October, December, or even for that matter in March?

Learning to write critical essays, develop designs, connect fact and theory in geography or genetics, is a holistic process: it is developmental, it takes time. The original motivation for Higher reform, the Howie report, as to allow two years for the Higher developmental process. Somehow the powers-that-be got the perverted notion that this could be short-circuited down to 10 weeks.

Hence the current 10 week units to be assessed on a must pass basis. Or failed and resat, failed and resat, resat yet again, all the time missing the teaching of the next unit, thus deepening the problem. The argument applies equally at Intermediate level.

So how can all pupils capable of passing in May be good enough the previous October? All the time there have been three guys sleeping at the back of the class. Douglas Osler, Sam Galbraith, Donald Dewar: answer the question please.

John Aberdein

Scottish Association of Teachers of Language and Literature

19 Grieveship Brae

Stromness, Orkney


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