Thursday, 18 July 2013

Testing at 11

The furore over testing school kids at age 11 is causing a high degree of polarisation within the population. 

I generally take the cynical view that anything opposed by the teaching unions (like hanging bad teachers) is bound to be good for kids. However, looking at the government’s proposal a tad more objectively, I’m of the opinion that a healthy dose of reality is far better than a kid growing up with a totally unrealistic sense of self-worth and entitlement based on nothing more than an ability to ‘play nicely’. 

Kids, in my experience, are vociferously competitive and respond well to the knowledge some other kid is better than them at something – unless the gulf is too large, in which case they disengage. However, the social group they mix with at school is generally of the same ability level and therefore the stimulus to improve within that peer group remains.

The end-of-term school reports I receive are pointless and tell me nothing whatseoever. I've shared many an email with my son's headmaster over the issue, and even he finally admitted (after a valiant effort at obfuscation) they are difficult to comprehend and basically dogmatic mumbo-jumbo. In the total absence of any meaningful comparative data with my son's peers, only A* is acceptable, in my eyes.

I do, however, hammer it into his mind that, at 15, his future is in his own hands, and if he does poorly academically, he will have only himself to answer to in later years if he finds it hard to get a job.

What with every job under the sun becoming 'professionalised', qualifications are more important than ever - but they must be meaningful and not just Mickey Mouse qualifications based on the facile assumption that competition is bad and everyone deserves something. The USSR's manufacturing industry (and British Leyland) suffered from that for decades.

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