Richard Gerver: Testing Times
I have just come back from a wonderful few days working with the staff of a new school in Cadiz, helping them to create the curriculum and structure for their innovative new facility. On the day I arrived, I was told that new legislation in Spain had just been announced, stating that there was to be a new regime of testing in schools and that this was to be part of Spain’s drive to improve education… Oh dear!
There is an old saying; “A pig doesn’t get fatter for the weighing.”
It is about time that those in charge of education policy heeded that simple phrase.
In England, we have the dubious reputation for testing our children more than in any other country in Europe and what has happened as a result; a dramatic rise in standards or employment? No! What we have seen is a dramatic decrease in teacher morale and a rise in student and teacher stress levels. We have a system that has stagnated with innovation and development stifled thanks to the narrow nature of the testing regime and the ridiculous emphasis that politicians place on data.
We must remember that children are not machines; they are not the products of a factory assembly line. Education must be a system of empowerment not control and most importantly, it must respect that learning; at its heart, is an organic and human experience.
Over the last few years, I have watched in despair as our children have seen a vacuum of hope develop over their very futures; young people who had been told at the start of their educational journeys, that if they worked hard and passed all of their exams, they would make it to university and if they made it to university and passed the exams that would give them a degree, that they would be guaranteed jobs for life. These are the same young people, who today sit on benches next to the roadsides in our major cities wondering what went wrong. They worked hard, passed all of those tests and exams and are now waiting for the promised jobs, yet like infants who grow to realise that fairy tales aren’t real, young people are waking up to find that there are no happy endings, no pots of gold at the end of the testing rainbow.
Despite this, our politicians continue to endeavour to convince us that testing, lots of testing, will drive up educational standards and with it hope for the future.
If only it were that simple.
What we need are not young people who are all pulled through the same narrow funnel in order to provide data, graphs and pretty charts that justify political policies, and the headline writer’s lust for an easy front page. What we need is a system designed to ensure that our kids develop the skills and behaviours which allow them to exploit their own, unique talents and skills; which ensure that they have the ability to create their own jobs and design their own futures and if we have to test anything, then let’s find a way to test their creativity, enterprise, ingenuity, resilience and independence.
Of course our education system only tests the things that are easy to examine and sometimes the most important things are the most difficult to assess; this shouldn’t mean that we opt for the easy option.
It amazes me that the West has become obsessed with the Pisa league tables and are desperate to test, retest and test again until we can compete with Finland and the East, whilst Finland and the East are moving away from test driven school systems towards systems designed around the individual; systems designed to explore and develop the organic nature of people and their potential.
I am not saying that we shouldn’t assess our children or the quality of their education but what we must stop doing, is designing the system to meet the tests and redesign our system and then find ways to hold it to account.
Everyone knows that the best pigs grow through eating the best food, in the right climate; where they can roam free and grow in their own time and their own way; not in a battery farm where the only thing that matters is how heavy they are.
By Richard Gerver
Sidan publicerades 2013-09-20 11:15 av Moa Duvarci Engman