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The punitive system of examinations in England is good in only one thing: the preservation of privileges George Monbiot

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Inwhy do we do this with our children? When the exam period begins, the question hangs over millions of families. This is evidenced by NHS data 17% of adolescents are 6 to 16 years old in England are now suffering from a “probable mental disorder” and the incidence has increased by 50% since 2017.

У Poll According to the Commissioner for Children in England, two-thirds of children named homework and exams as the biggest cause of stress. Responding to poll The National Union of Education 73% of teachers said they believe their students ’mental health has deteriorated after the government introduced its“ reformed ”GCSEs, which give more weight to final exams and fewer coursework and other assessments.

These are reforms imposed by schools by Michael Gove v expert advicemay have contributed to the OECD a shocking find in 2019, of the 72 countries in which 15-year-olds ’life satisfaction was assessed, the UK ranked 69th. The joy of our children’s lives has suffered the greatest decline in any country since 2015, the year when the GCSE reform became effective. If we are going to expose young people, already so vulnerable, to extreme stress and anxious exams, there must be a great reason. So what is it?

Given the importance of this topic, it is surprising how subtle and rare the government’s rationale is. For a long attempt by a high-ranking government official to justify the English system, you must return to article former Secretary of Education Damian Hinds, about whom he wrote for the Sunday Times in 2019. Although the exams were stressful and had a “disproportionate impact on the well-being of young people”, he argued without any supporting evidence that this stress was important in “character building” and “developing resilience and coping mechanisms”. ». In fact, the vast majority of people suffer mental health disorders develop them in childhood or adolescence. The great stress of childhood is likely to make us less resilient, not more.

Hinds’ article – simple-minded, idle, gentleman – has a strong argument, but not the one he intended. This shows that you can pass exams, go to the best university and become a cabinet minister, but fail to reach basic standards of research, insight, originality, argumentation, empathy or humanity. But at least he tried. While the current Secretary of Education is Nadhim Zahavi insisted that we return to a model exam that was suspended during the pandemic, he made no attempt to explain why.

Exams measure the ability to take exams. Although they can assess certain skills such as keeping facts and performing linear tasks under pressure, they represent only a small part of the equipment a person needs to navigate the world. Many of the challenges we face are complex, long-lasting and multi-layered. They may require social and emotional intelligence rather than the ability to deduce facts, and it is best to overcome them through collaboration rather than competition.

But success in these narrow, unrepresentative tests can determine a student’s entire future course of life. Some will be branded failures, creating an image of yourself that will never be erased. I have met children who are brilliant in their own way but who do not pass exams. I have met adults who often, after a long struggle with self-esteem and social indulgence, achieve great success despite a low grade. I have met others whose obvious talents remain unrecognized because they never overcome stigma.

No child fails the system. It is a system that seeks to drive everyone into one box, failing the child. This is a pathology of diversity. For example, how ADHD outbreakClinical psychologist Stephen Hinshaw and health economist Richard Scheffler suggest that the massive increase in the number of ADHD diagnoses is apparently due to an increase in the number of high-rate tests. As exams become more important, parents have more incentives to seek a diagnosis and purchase drugs that can improve their child’s performance. At the same time as report Education professor Merrin Hutchings argues that more children are likely to experience ADHD symptoms in a stressful school system that forces them to sit still for long periods of time and reduces opportunities for creative, physical and practical work.

Exams distort every aspect of education. It’s not just about “teaching to the test” and teaching students to memorize, not about encouraging deep understanding, independence, and creative thinking. They also ensure that the curriculum is narrow and broken down on the branch, sealing proven knowledge into artificial boxes. Such a separation combined with a ridiculously early specialization of the English education system ensures that by the time we reach adolescence, we will be almost unable to understand each other, let alone the world we fall into.

So what are exams for? Preservation of privileges. Privilege loves competition because it can always be rigged. Private schools and parents who pay for tuition can afford to kill the necessary demands on the child, even one whose mind seeks to travel in other directions.

If there is a better option for exams, then this government has not achieved this. They cause our children pain and suffering, narrow their minds and force them to obey. They turn education, which should be rich in the joy of discovery, into instrumental trouble. They exacerbate injustice, exclusion and inequality. Q: What would a fair, rounded, useful 21st century education look like? A: Nothing like that.

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