Just about everything that’s wrong with education today
When your ideal education consists of a fictitious, palatial castle (which not only contains a spacious Quidditch pitch but a forest of noble centaurs, and teaches Transfiguration and Potions, to name but a few- this fantastic, glorious place, of course, being Hogwarts) its relatively easily to criticize the British education system.
The current education system, under the impression the youth of Britain epitomize stupidity, seems to consist of a condescending series of spoon-feeding stages in a one-dimensional standardisation of children. A mouth-full I know, but two years of endless work are apparently rendered useless by a month or so of factory-like, mechanical exam preparation, filled with teachers’ revision guides.
This needs explanation. Rather than using an original ideas, or unique opinions, exams have become about satisfying the marking schemes, to which structure, phrasing, and technique are everything, particularly in the sciences, from ‘smaller scale divisions’ in Physics, to ‘particles colliding more often’, whereas ‘particles colliding more’ would lose a mark in Chemistry.
At the mercy of endless educational directives from governors and exam boards (not dissimilar the callous Umbridge’s decrees from the Ministry of Magic), education has become about teaching to exams by learning mark schemes, enforcing an unoriginal technique, and regurgitating set phrases, with a focus on league tables and success rates opposed to the struggles of many students, in fear of government cuts that hang ominously over many.
In fact, in areas of Physics where I’m, well, screwed, it was merely a matter of learning a phrase, with no understanding required. Though biased, in English Literature exams, the mark scheme merely desires answers ‘with further insight, sensitivity, individuality and flair’- such broadness allowing genuinely innovative answers.
I’m a module man, but not one for retakes of exams – by which I mean that a syllabus is separated into several exams, each covering a different ‘module’, opposed to a single final exam. Whilst modules ease the exam frenzy and give multiples chances, retakes simply encourage national apathy. I kid you not, some students, okay, friends, intentionally did not revise for exams under the impression retakes the following year were acceptable, which hardly encourages an optimistic approach towards examinations- though impossible, being a cosmic paradox and all.
Also, coursework has become an opportunity to lap up marks with too great an influence from teachers, too much time, and too many occasions for editing – I’ll euphemistically say, the ‘less academic’ even went on to collect full marks at my school, contributing to grade inflation. Though it’s necessary for those who struggle with exams, the guidelines have become vague and the tasks vapid.
With a lack of effective authority, there is little else to prevent this passivity, and though I’m not calling for the return of corporal punishment or Umbridge’s Blood Quill, perhaps an increase in the ability to punish disruptive children is necessary – and that I say with a sense of betrayal. For example, after being caught for duelling with makeshift pencil-wands in the corridor (don’t you dare ridicule it), I had to do an essay on disruption to classes, but I could only find enjoyment in insincerely mocking school regulations, with little guilt. In fact, only recently Academies in England began hiring teachers without a qualified teacher status (QTS), who will have little knowledge of disruptive children.
As you may have realised, I’m incapable of using washing machines. Fortunately, I know a little about binomial distribution. Wait. Surely, the baffling mystery that is the modern washing machine will play a larger role than obscure mathematics in life. Are we being taught the fundamental skills necessary for learning and survival, like using washing machines, opposed to mere fact? Of course, there are some who may feel almost all of their education is irrelevant due to a specific aspiration, so why not introduce vocational opportunities?
Though the nation seems content with mocking the dumbing-down of standards at universities where ‘breastfeeding’ and ‘carnival arts’ are taught, the difference in grade boundaries and intellectual rigour across GCSEs is largely ignored in the media. Whilst I’ve done the more challenging subjects of History and Drama due to their high grade boundaries, those who choose the ‘less academic’ ones more easily collect A*s, resulting in no distinction in results. Meanwhile, certain schools, conscious of league tables, force students to take the ‘Foundation Tier’ in exams, limiting the students to a government-pleasing C grade at best, whilst others collect A*s comfortably- but what powers do schools have to stand up to educational decrees, the whims of exam boards and the pressures of league tables?
This list goes on, I can assure you, but the central issues lie around the gaping flaws in examinations in Britain, from the acceptance of almost any subject on a par with the most difficult, to the lack of restrictions, in combination with the array of useless knowledge that causes so much frustration for students. To be frank, education in Britain is in decline, and headmasters may want to take a proverbial leaf from Albus Dumbledore’s book. (On a last point- school dinners could do with a lot of improvement. Just saying.)Tagged in: coursework, education, exams, gcses, school, youth
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