Month: May 2014

…and this is why the standardised test sucks!

This is a post from a friend in the UK on Facebook. This is everything I dislike about the demands on education establishments to ‘measure up.’ ┬áThis issue is throughout the developed world. This madness needs to stop. This is why standardised testing sucks!


Today was GCSE English literature exam. (Autocorrect tried to call it ligature – might as well be.) A very depressing experience for those of us who act as readers/scribes. Some of our pupils cannot engage with such dense texts. They would have to access it via the film, and see it over and over again to remember the story. Mice and Men, a wonderful story, so much to learn from it. Animal Farm, an important and relevant piece of literature, but too complex. It’s almost written in a different kind of English, even though Orwell was the best choice and more accessible than Austen or Stevenson.

So should they be doing this exam, why are they wasting their time on something that makes them feel such failures? (They manage to write 5 lines in 45 minutes.) Because English Language doesn’t count in the GCSE league tables unless the Literature exam is taken as well. It doesn’t have to be passed, just taken.

The study of literature offers us an education in history, psychology, politics, all human life is there. Everyone should have access to it. So, perhaps its just that the questions are wrong for pupils who have language impairments? Perhaps there should be a foundation level that asks questions like, ” what would you do in the end if you were George? ” What would happen to Lennie if he were alive today? No textual analysis, just empathetic responses.

English teachers don’t actually experience how difficult these exams are for those pupils. Just as well. They send them off to battle, they’ve taught them well, rehearsed all the possibilities. It’s like sending the troops over the top in Blackadder. Heroism on all sides. Failure guaranteed.

We “readers ” see it and it depresses the hell out of us. I don’t believe in one size fits all.