Saturday, May 24, 2008

Teach pupils/students to think freely and develop their character rather than processing them by testing!!

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Thought it was worth reproducing in full (below) a story ('Exam system is fatally flawed') from the Bristol Evening Post, 24 May 2008. Head teacher Peter Fraser makes makes some great points that I agree strongly with, having previously opposed what I call 'education factories'. There is far too much emphasis on testing and targets and not enough emphasis of the development of thinking, creativity and character in the education system, largely due to the stranglehold of central government who have imposed a system that has been narrow and inflexible. I want an education system that emphasises quality of experience and quality of relationships.

A Bristol head teacher has pointed out a "fatal flaw" with exams that dominate the lives of young people.

Peter Fraser, of Colston's School in Stapleton, said continuing to train children to "jump through the hoops" to meet exam targets risked creating a generation who could not think for themselves.

"Children in England remain the most tested in the world," he said at the school's annual prize-giving day.

"They are out of lessons for at least 46 weeks of their secondary schooling to sit exams."

The annual cost of exams is in excess of £200 million, a 50 per cent rise since Labour came to power in 1997, and educational progress is defined and directed by a target-driven culture.

"In simple terms, better test results equate to a better education, and central Government looks to exam outcomes rather than pupil experience as their measure.

"If pupils do better in tests, then they must be better educated and standards must therefore be higher.

"But there is, I believe, a fatal flaw. Every test becomes another hoop, and we can dutifully train young people to jump through without questioning whether the process has any lasting or meaningful educational benefit.

"Eventually we will prevent pupils from thinking critically, evaluating, analysing or even questioning what is presented to them.

"They will, of course, be very good at jumping through hoops."He said pupils faced ongoing and increasing tests of their honesty, reliability, sincerity, generosity, tolerance, humility, resilience, determination and compassion.

He said: "Should they fail these, they fail as a person regardless of their paper qualifications.'

He wants young people to:

* do new things, not simply repeat what others have done;
* be creative and imaginative;
* be critical of, not simply accepting, everything they are offered;
* seek to be the best they can be;
* take pride in what they are as people;
* be defined by their personal qualities, values and conviction;
* go into the world and make a difference.

He said: "I am concerned that they should experience an education, rather than be processed by testing.

"Mr Fraser reported that 96 pupils would join year seven at Colston's in September.

He said last year had seen exam success with 49 per cent of all GCSE grades secured at A* and A. At A-level, 66 per cent of grades were A/B.

Refurbishment of laboratories, upgrading of sixth-form facilities and expansion of boarding facilities would shortly begin, adding up to one of the most ambitious periods of development in the school's 298-year history.