Life Beyond Exams

Exam marking finished and posted at last! The exercise has confirmed my belief that those who are able to see inside the setter’s head (students and teachers) are best placed to succeed. Couldn’t quite agree with what was required for some of the answers even after attending the markers’ meeting, although I can accept that the important thing when marking is to be consistent. When you boil it down, it seems to me that the difference between success and failure is whether a candidate is aware of the difference between “how” and “why”, not always an easy distinction to explain in the west of Scotland.

In fact, language can often be a barrier to success for many candidates, as was demonstrated in one school last year at the start of the Intermediate Practical Cookery examination. On opening the paper and finding the instructions, “1. Heat 3 tbsps of oil in a pan. 2. Add chicken and seal.” a distressed candidate put up her hand and asked the invigilator for assurance that they did in fact only have chicken.

Teachers’ thoughts are now turning to the long summer holidays of course, and why wouldn’t they. The job doesn’t get any easier and is much more physically demanding than people realise. But is there a more sensible way to organise the school year so that everyone wins? The Institute for Public Policy Research certainly thinks so. In a recent study they found that not only do young people’s reading and maths abilities regress over the long summer break, but the poverty of access to out of school activities for children from socially disadvantaged areas increases the gap between the haves and the have-nots. I think there are several other good reasons for re-adjusting the traditional school year. If you want to read more and join the debate you can read the original article in the TES archive.

2 thoughts on “Life Beyond Exams

  1. ‘the difference between success and failure is whether a candidate is aware of the difference between “how” and “why”, not always an easy distinction to explain in the west of Scotland’

    How no?
    😉

    Lucy

  2. Just because, that’s how, Lucy! The problem is compounded for Scots of an older generation by the “Whit wey?” option as in the following story. The “Wee McGreegor” stories by JJ Bell which were popular in the 1960s, told of the adventures of a cheeky and inquisitive young lad in the style of Oor Wullie. In one episode McGreegor visits the zoo with his da and on spying the polar bear asks his father, “Whit wey does that bear have oose (fluff or fur) on its feet?” When his dad replies with misplaced confidence in his own knowledge, “Because it’s a Polish bear”, McGreegor instantly comes back with, “Aye, it would shin (soon) polish aff you and me!”

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