Teachers: Let’s be brutally honest shall we: exam results are all that matters in education. Bottom line.
Don’t misunderstand: What students can regurgitate and explain and do in a stress-fueled few hours should not be the ultimate end of their education. Schools should be hubs of self-discovery and confidence building where students learn to think and express themselves independently and where the focus is on curiosity, discovery, critical thinking, creativity and all those other yummy twenty-first century skills. But they aren’t, by and large. Even schools which profess to have these wonderful education principles at their core still subject their students to standardized examinations at the end of the academic year.
Universities want these results, as do parents and the education authorities. (And so do most students and teachers who don’t realize that there are better ways of measuring mastery.) Standardized assessments are simply the easiest way to benchmark a student and a school’s performance. (Note: I said the easiest – not the best.)
As much as we can argue that they should be, the scourge of standardized tests and exams is thus unlikely to be supplanted any time soon.
So does this mean that we need to give up on twenty-first century teaching and learning? Do we need to ignore technology in schools because students still have to sit for a final paper-based test? Are we deluding ourselves as to the value of integrating technology and twenty-first century educational principles when our educational culture is still mired in standardized testing?
For me, the answer is a resounding ‘no’ to all of these questions. And my reason, I think, reveals the two core motivations underpinning the education revolution:
In adopting a student-centred, technology-integrated, twenty-first century methodology, we increase students’ enjoyment and engagement in their own learning and we are more likely to be nurturing life-long learners.
Until these archaic benchmarking devices are replaced with a more commensurate, relevant system, motivated and engaged students can begin to see standardized tests as a temporary obstacles in their learning instead of seeing them as the be all and end all.
Exam results may not improve, but students are almost certainly going to become more involved, thoughtful, successful and confident adults in a decade or two.
And this, as any educational revolutionary will tell you, is the real purpose of school.