Testing times

Around the world, exam season is switching into high gear. Months of studying, training and sweating are all coming down to a few lonely hours in a testing hall. But will children emerge from their exams better equipped for life in the real world? Maybe not. Over the last generation, many countries have put standardized testing at the core of their education systems so that kids now sit more exams than ever before. English pupils, for instance, take a whopping 70 national tests while at school. The trouble is that the obsession with targets and measurable results is backfiring. Instead of inspiring pupils to learn, teachers end up teaching to the test. The curriculum narrows. Children learn how to serve up oven-ready answers rather than how to think outside the proverbial box. What exams do better than anything else is tell us how good a child is at taking exams – and how useful is that? Of course, testing has a role to play in education – it can spur children to work hard and it can help measure their progress. But it’s folly to make exam results the sole measure of a child or a teacher or a school. That is why pressure is building around the world to reduce the emphasis on testing. A couple of days ago, a parliamentary committee concluded that testing is now doing more harm than good in England. Read morehere.