Thursday, 28 June 2018

Exam Pressure

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Its exam time in education and we are talking about the problems of high stakes testing ... again. For as long as I remember those involved in education have been talking about this every year at this time ... its like groundhog day ... we go round and round .. we recognise the problem but can't  get out of the loop.

Not only is formal education stuck in an exam loop but its stuck in a positive feedback loop .. the problem with exams just seems to get worse every year.

The problem is that high stakes testing distorts the education system to its own ends - rather than getting a balanced broad education that draws out and develops the individual we get instead an education that programs and fills the individual with the things they will be tested on, in other words, education increasingly means teaching to the test.

The problem is that those with the ability to change things are the least able to change things - those in positions of power and authority are products of the system ... can the products of the system change the system? Those in positions of power and authority in education have done well by the system - they are well qualified and are good at taking exams ... can we really expect them to deny the system that made them and suggest something else. In fact, those in positions of power and authority just reinforce the the containment of education by exams .. they suggest more competition for more measurement ... league tables for schools and Ofsted gradings are so important but exam achievement is the crucial factor in all of this - everything comes to get related to its impact on exam achievements.

I can only see the effect of exams in education getting more powerful not less. Not only are leaders of education products of the exam system themselves but are the type who are driven by results and driven by data - they crave measurement and to get results they will demand more measurement.

Technology is of course complicit in the hold that testing and measurement has over formal education. Learning environments are now managed learning environments and technology is the meat grinder - processing, analysing dissecting learners as data subjects and discarding those who don't, won't or can't make the grade.

Resistance is futile .. schools, colleges, teachers and students all have to succumb to the system .. their future depends on it - they have to get the best exam results they can for life outside the system can be very hard indeed. ... Poor exam results can affect you for life - it can almost be like a criminal record checked at every transition you make ... you want a job ... the employer will look at your grades first ... want to study ... your college will check your grades. Good grades are a passport to a good life ... no wonder the those with wealth and power are happy with the way things are - entrenching privilege.

The end result of all this is more of the same ... so many see the problem but the formal education system is on exam auto-pilot and automation is where it will ultimately go .. there are so many vested interests it seems inevitable. The formal education system will literally become an exam factory with machines processing our young for tech capitalists in the interests of capitalism. Machine processing is so much more efficient in closing the circle to teach to the test ... exam results will be so much more predictable with personalised learning and your artificially intelligent teacher who can monitor your every move and spoon feed you what you need at just the right time ... if dogs and pigeons can do it people must be able to as well.

Formal education will become an exam factory ... for real learning we will need to look elsewhere.

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