It’s all very well debating the pros and cons of Mr Gove’s educational reforms among adults, but no-one seems to have taken into account the views of the students whom these changes will be tested upon, and playing the role of guinea-pig in an educational experiment is not something that I have opted in for. What about the changes that we feel are needed? I want change based upon our ideas, and what we feel is important.
Currently in my first year of GCSEs, I have spent the past year or so learning about how to answer exam questions in varying subjects, and how to twist my words in order to achieve the maximum amount of marks. I have been studying exam questions and answers - not subject knowledge. Simply how to use the necessary knowledge to score points, and impress the examiner. It seems obvious that an overall subject knowledge should be more valued than an ability to write in a certain style that will win you the most marks.So why is it so important that we score maximum points on these exams? Because they’re all we’ve got; there’s no second chance, and with the possible eradication of resits looming over us, things are only getting worse. So answer me this: are linear exams really the way forward?
Whilst exams are suited to the abilities of some students, there are hundreds of others that will most likely struggle to remember two-years worth of knowledge in 10 different subjects, and then be able to successfully transfer all of this information into multiple pieces of writing all whilst bearing the weight of exam pressure. As well as that, all of this takes place over the space of around two weeks. Seem reasonable? Some students will be able to cope with this, but others can’t, and it isn’t fair to assume that they are less intelligent because of this. As a student myself, and as a member of society, I know many people who struggle or have struggled with exams, but are no less intelligent or insightful. What if a student has an excellent knowledge of history but is not confident enough in English skills to be able to fully portray their knowledge in a piece of writing? It hardly seems fair to suggest that this student is less intelligent just because they are less able in their writing skills. This is just one example of a situation that really emphasises the fact that all-linear exams are not a fair way of determining the grades of all students, and should certainly not be the only form of examination.
It is fully understood that exams are not supposed to be easy, and that they should test a student’s ability. But as well as this, they should be fair and provide opportunities for students to showcase all sorts of knowledge and ability - not just test a pupil’s ability to answer exam-style questions. Linear exams largely exclude the possibility for expression and creativity, factors that are highly valued in later life, and certainly seem more important than the ability to answer an exam question without losing marks. The format of these exams also means that if a student is having a bad day then they are lost; there is no flexibility. What if the hamster dies the night before my physics exam and I’m too stricken with grief to revise? What if the neighbours had a party & I was kept awake all night before my economics exam? There are so few assessments throughout the year that students simply can’t afford to have a bad day.
Aside from this, what about the other vital life-skills that we aren’t tested on? There are many A* students that can successfully solve linear equations but may be unable to uphold a topical conversation or act responsibly in a dangerous situation. Linear exams prevent the possibility of expression and leave no room for students to showcase other talents and abilities. Even without linear exams, we are not tested on many valuable life skills and talents that may therefore be missed by the current exam system.
As a student studying in the midst of all of various educational reforms, I have firsthand experience of the problems with the current exam system. Does Mr Gove have this? No he does not. Whilst experienced ministers such as himself have every right to make decisions about education, I see no reason why students and teachers shouldn’t have more say in the matter. After all, we’re the ones that really know what we’re talking about.