Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Education is about more than exams

Two interesting stories about education have appeared in the press today and between them they highlight the importance of a good education balancing excellent exam results with developing wider skills.

The first story is that the legal challenge against the marking of this summer's GCSE English results is being given a speedy route through the courts (click here for bbc.co.uk reporting).

To my mind there are two underlying issues behind this legal challenge.

1.  The huge importance placed on academic qualifications as a route to success in a qualification-driven society and the resulting pressures on schools to deliver. 
2.  Concern over the pace of proposed changes to GCSE and A Level exams without ensuring a reliable system of exam marking.  This was the reason behind HMC publishing a dossier detailing poor quality marking over the last ten years (see previous blog post).  At the end of last week, the Chair of UCAS raised concerns about reforming some A Levels and not others leading to a two tier system of 'good' and 'bad' A Level subjects (click here for bbc.co.uk reporting).  This mirrors the point I made in an earlier blog about changing a core of GCSEs but not others.  Yesterday The Independent reported low morale in the Department of Education created by concerns over the nature and pace of change.

The second story concerns a new book which is generating huge interest in the US and is shortly to be published in the UK.  Called 'How Children Succeed' by Paul Tough, it argues that exam qualifications are less important to future success than the development of character.  Judith Wood's review in The Telegraph makes for interesting reading and is a well-balanced commentary on the various responses to Tough's argument.

I particularly agree with Judith Wood's comment that a well-rounded education is a key factor behind the international regard for UK independent education.  The trick lies in getting the right balance.  Pupils must get the best results possible without missing out on the wider skills which exams cannot produce but which are equally essential in preparation for a successful, fulfilled life.