The hedumacation system in modern Britain
For the past few months I've been doing some private tuition to try and make ends meet while I finish my PhD, and a recurring theme has emerged in the questions my students ask me - namely, one question in particular: do I have to know this for the exam?
There's one girl I'm teaching at the moment who's in Year 9 (that's 14 years old, for the benefit on non-Brits) who's particularly annoying on this front. She seems to have an almost phobic aversion to learning anything that's not garuanteed to come up in the exams she's got this summer. I mean, even if I teach her something that's at a very slightly higher level than what she's doing at school at the moment, it'll surely stand her in good stead next year, as the subjects I'm teaching (science and maths) are core subjects that she can't drop before taking her GCSEs anyway. She's even said to me things like (in so many words) "I don't have to understand this, I just have to know it, right?" To be honest, it's hard to blame her, given the box-ticking, jumping-through-hoops approach that seems to dominate the National Curriculum at the moment, and the government's obsession with targets, league tables and easily quantifiable results.
I remember in my history GCSE (and this is going back 10 years) getting marked down for writing stuff that was, to quote the teacher, of A-level standard - because I wasn't simply doing what I was told for GCSE coursework.
Does anyone else here teach? Or maybe some of the younger members have recently finished school themselves? Thoughts, anyone?
Cheesy american teen comedy cliche #144:
Something outrageous or bizarre happens in class that has absolutley nothing to do with the subject being taught. Dopey kid raises his hand and says "Will this be on the exam?"
Pretty much that, only subsitute for "something outrageous or bizarre happens in class that has absolutley nothing to do with the subject being taught", "something that might perhaps be of interest to the student and useful in their later educational career but hasn't necessarily been decreed fit for children of their age by Those On High who decide these things".
I know what you mean. Other pupils would often ask me at school why I was reading books not on the curriculum.
Totally baffled them.
this happens a lot to me.
i have 'discussions' with students where i suggest that maybe some things are simply interesting in their own right.
i generally get laughed at
I finished school in 1991 and it was the same then. It was encouraged by the teachers because they wanted the school to have good results in the exams and that's what mattered.
Often I would ask for something to be explained only to be told that you didn't need to know that for the exam.
You don't need to understand what current, voltage and resistance etc are as long as you can plug the numbers into a formula which is provided for you (you dont have to memorise it either).
I really wanted to learn something and really understand it.
I have had a problem with "education" since the age of about 15 even though I am really into learning about things.
I taught an intro class, and I'd often get that question. When college is compulsory among a student body unenamored with learning or the meager qualifications they'll have with a degree, efficiency is the prime goal -- cut off all those interesting tangents, just tell us what to put in the blank!
The question I loathe more is "When is this going to be useful to me in life?" which roughly translates to "How will this make me money?" Fortunately I taught Introduction to Popular Culture, so the low instrumentality of the course material was already assumed by the students.
it's a pretty obvious consequence when youre in a position like me where i'm about to sit my 8th consecutive year of june exams. admittedly the ones in year 10 were of little real consequence and only one mattered but whatever. i cannot wait til this is all over and i can start thinking beyond a curriculum again.
too. many. exams.
At the risk of sounding like a raving lunatic, I actually quite like exams - University exams, at any rate; I'd far rather revise for exams than do coursework (which probably explains why my PhD is dragging a bit... ). But at Uni level, at least in any course that's worth doing, you have to understand what you've been taught in order to pass, or at least get a half-decent grade, rather than simply recite facts or go through some blind, mechanical procedure. In fact coursework (at school) can be just as bad in this respect as exams; potentially worse, in fact, since in this day and age of Google and Wikipedia (hehe, sounding like an old man now) there's no garuantee it's even the kids' own words.
I would have thought that the answer to Google/Wiki cheating is simply to check a students answers against the first few results that Google throws up. Wouldn't most of them type in the subject at hand and then use the first pages results to steal from?
Or is your average student a bit more savvy then that?
English kids are the most over assessed students in the world - there's some research which actually counts the number of exam papers, hours etc and it all makes horrifying reading for teachers like me who entered the profession to actually pass on their love of their subject.
It is interesting to note that even the govt are starting to listen with the wholly discredited Y9 exams looking almost certain to go. However, the major problem is the almost Maoist state of permanent revolution in the education sector - all new A levels coming in 18 months, total review of coursework in GCSE, new qualifications for vocational subjects, Brown suggesting compulsory full time education till 18 etc.
The point you make is that kids want to know if it's on the exam - they've been made this pragmatic by the system - although i might add that when you have them in the classroom for three/four hours a week you can do a lot of off piste stuff but if they are paying you by the hour then maybe they are expecting you to give them stuff which will get them the grades? Isn't that the principle behind private schooling?
Yeah, I've heard this complaint before - namely, that a less-than-perfect system that is just left alone for five or ten years at a stretch, so we could at least have a chance to see how well it performs and then make changes to it, if necessary - would be preferable to the state of permanent flux it's in at the moment.
Originally Posted by jenks
Yes, that's fair enough, and it's something I've been telling myself too - what was bugging me is the sometimes fanatical resistance to learning anything not strictly syllabus (and I'm not talking about going off on an irrelevant ten-minute tangent here, I mean mentioning something briefly and then moving straight on). After all, even though something might not be on the exam, it might help them understand something that is.
Originally Posted by jenks
Off-piste thinking isn't being encouraged in the current exam system, as the opportunity for multiple, modular retakes and highly prescriptive mark-schemes makes the whole process too mechanical.
Coursework, which offers ample opportunity for independent work, is also now ruined because of rampant plagiarism.
Further papers like S-Levels and STEP give students the chance to use the fruits of individual study.
Only changing the shape of the hoops (or reducing their number) that students have to jump through will lead them to adjust their approach.
I say get rid of AS Levels and give teachers the chance to do something interesting for a year while the students have a break from exams.
I also enjoyed exams (as long as they mattered - not fakes like flipping KS3 SAT tests). I used to get proper psyched up for them.
As a teacher, my prime aim is not to communicate a love of subject to the kids, but of the pleasures of academic success - knowing the stuff inside out; organising yourself - and kicking other people's asses when it counts. *EVIL LAUGH*