IN response to Annika Nestius-Brown’s letter (September 20, ‘GCSEs not allowing best pupils to shine’), I would like to question her fundamental understanding of education.
First of all, I would like her to explain how she believes exams actually provide an education.
Sitting an exam is an assessment of certain skills or knowledge, but it certainly does not educate children. Preparing students for exams seems to have completely replaced education.
It is sad that so many teachers have been forced to forgo the joys of creating a truly exciting educational experience in their classroom for the sake of their school improving its examination statistics. It is time to focus on education again.
I would also like her to define “academic excellence” and explain how it relates to future employability in the mainstream, or is she only concerned about those children who can achieve this so-called academic excellence.
I would like her to qualify her implication that coursework is reviewed by teachers and resubmitted several times. She does not appear to be aware that coursework has been replaced by controlled assessment which is much more stringently regulated and certainly cannot be resubmitted several times.
If, as she suggests, every pupil is to receive an excellent education, then that education must be fit for purpose, ie prepare them for further education and employment.
If we are primarily concerned with measuring recall and application of knowledge and so called “academic excellence” in core subjects, how are we to prepare our young people for the vast array of skills they will need for future employment?
Northern Ireland does need to develop the best exam system possible, but it should be one that measures an appropriate education and allows all children the opportunity to shine and fulfil their potential in the subjects and skills which are relevant to them and brings out the best in them.
When we stop focusing on assessment and start to focus on actually giving our children an excellent, interesting, comprehensive and empowering education then we might be able to conceive of appropriate forms of assessment.
We need to start valuing a much wider range of skills and knowledge than just “academic”.
In the case of Northern Ireland, unfortunately, large numbers of our children are written off at the age of 11 for not possessing this mysterious academic ability and are denied the resources that their privileged so called “academic” counterparts are given.
To follow the path that Michael Gove is pursuing would be to further alienate the majority of our children in an education system which only values an elite minority.
As for rewarding “ability”, and the implication is that this is something we are endowed with at birth, can we please lose this word from our educational vocabulary and recognise that what we are truly talking about is achievement.
Anyone advising on education should know that this word is entirely inappropriate. And finally, I would love to hear her explain why these academic achievers are the “best pupils”.
Concerned Teacher and Parent