Examinations and testing are an essential and important element in education and training however they have now assumed a damaging and disproportionate influence on the examination system. The introduction of frequent tests (SATs) and the publication of league tables further distort and perturbs the system. Add to this the annual hysteria and hype by the press and media when the examination results are announced again indicates the current obession with and over importance attached to examination and test results.
Examinations have, whether we like it or not, become a major part of the education and training landscape. As a result the Education system in Britain is now dominated by the pursuit of formal qualifications and state-driven tests which massively influences the teaching and learning process. Sadly they now dominate the education system and bring with them a number of negative consequences and dangers such as:
- The regard of examinations as an end rather than a means
- The pressure on students and their parents producing a harmful precocity
- An over-estimation, in judging institutions and teachers, on examination successes
- The negative impact of league tables on institutions and teachers
- Grade inflation – commentators say this happens when the pass marks appear to increase each year – but standards do not either remaining unchanged or even declining
- The danger of credential inflation i.e. the belief that as more candidates enter for qualifications the qualifications could become devalued
- The influence of ‘bad examinations’ on teaching and learning
- Examiners and the awarding bodies treating the whole enterprise as a ‘hard nosed business’ Too often awarding bodies are now driven by the accountants where the bottom line is the most important part of the business . A number of the examining/awarding bodies are charities and yet are operated as if they are for-profit organisations and their CEOs are paid very high salaries inspite of being a charity.
- The obsession with frequent testing and the resultant ‘teaching to the test syndrome’ that deflects and diverts the teachers from the real purpose of education
- Continuous and time consuming assessment regimes, driven by paper-based tests have created massive evidence bases which now dominate the examination system.
- The assessment and examination system, (industry?), has become a bureaucratic box ticking culture underpinned by an over prescriptive and micro-controlled regime largely driven by the government.
- The examination and testing system has now become an expensive, unwieldy and distorting bureaucracy .