Every year at this time the news media in the UK seem to be filled with the similar comments about the education system. Take your pick from the following: “standards are falling”; “exams are getting easier”; “the opposition condemn (x element) of the education system”; “the problem with easy(?!) subjects e.g. media studies”.
I would like to stand up and be counted as one who truly hates this annual ritual and thinks it to be incredibly unfair and belittling to both students and teachers. It is not acceptable to undermine the work and commitment of some (even most) striving for the best results possible, and suggest that in some way it is less significant than the work of their predecessors.
Teaching is one of those jobs that I would not do for all the money in the world because it would drive me mad, but (and partly because of that reaction) I have a huge respect for teachers. Many of my friends and several of my family are teachers while my sister amongst others wishes to make it her career. And to make that commitment, even for all the rewards it brings, requires a submission to the education system which is fair political game for point scoring and bickering.
Don’t get me wrong, I know that some of the developments over the last few years have been appreciated while others haven’t. Growing up, however, I was used to curriculum changes (and sometimes very significant ones) occurring as regularly as every other year. No chance to get used to one set of goals and targets before the next is implemented. It is not going to be possible for either students or teachers to be able to fully reach their potential when there is no continuity from one year to the next.
It seems that the continuing and various methods of assessing students and their schools are never viewed as adequate. That may indeed be the case, but why is it that the majority of the discussions are focussed on this particular week/weekend (at least in the media). Every August, in the run up to A Level and GCSE results it seems that all those frustrated with the system or looking to score cheap jibes crawl out of the woodwork.
I would like to say to all those people: If it matters, keep talking about it and working for it throughout the year BUT shut up now! If you want to increase standards and celebrate achievement, do not do all you can to undermine them at the time when students are at their most anxious about results. Let us take the opportunity to celebrate with those who’ve done well, for themselves as well as by objective standards. Let us commiserate and have sympathy and understanding for those who have not achieved what they wanted or hoped for. But whatever you do, do not condemn the same students for the challenges or failings of the system over which they have no control.