What If Exam Results Were Less Important?

It’s that time of year again. Across Scotland this week, 16-18 year-olds are finding out how they performed in their National Qualifications, something which will determine their futures to a great extent, though not always in the way that they – or we – imagine it will.
These qualifications have always been seen as the hard currency for entry to Higher Education and a successful career, but we all know it doesn’t always work out that way, so perhaps it is time to re-consider what we think schools are for, and to look again at whether learning, schooling and the examination system, while having many features in common, are really quite different animals. In this typically insightful and thought-provoking blogpost, Martin Robinson considers the implications of moves to lessen the importance of formal qualifications in career recruitment, and wonders whether both schools and the ‘world of work’ might benefit from the changes. It is an idea I have supported for many years, but I would go even further. Remove the burden of major end-of school exams from learners and teachers and let them focus on the development of the four capacities as set out in Curriculum for Excellence. At the same time, shift the burden of selection for Higher and Further Education courses to the institutions themselves. In that way they can be more confident that the right students are taking the right courses, and drop-out rates will fall. Everybody wins.

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The Times reports that Ernst and Young will “no longer consider an applicant’s qualifications, school or university when selecting trainees for interview.” In pursuit of a ‘level playing field’ the firm will use online tests to assess the ‘potential’ of an applicant. Only at thefinalinterview will a candidate’s academic record be revealed. The main drive behind this move seems to be the desire to increase the diversity of its workforce and that the firm has a: “social obligation to break barriers that in part exclude people from certain backgrounds.” The online test is accessiblehere. PwC no longer considers A levels when selecting people to become graduate trainees and I attended a meeting where someone from recruitment in Barclays mentioned they were (thinking of?) doing something similar to E&Y.

Should schools start teaching children how to take online multiple choice ‘business’ tests and answer numerical reasoning questions or should…

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