Showing posts with label education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label education. Show all posts

Monday, 18 June 2012

Why shouldn't teenagers be able to re-sit their exams?

When I’m not reviewing books, writing novels or blogging, I have a day job as an education journalist. My children have never been keen on me being clued up about key stage 3, phonics and schemes of work, but they’ve had to put up with it. And it’s endlessly fascinating. One week I’m writing about apprenticeships, the next I’m interviewing the head master of Eton (one of the most impressive heads I’ve ever met).

But with A levels still in full swing, I opened The Times this morning to read that education secretary Michael Gove is planning to divide them into two courses, each lasting a year and ending with a set of exams in the summer term. He is convinced that dropping the system of modules would halve the number of exams pupils take in the sixth form and cut the culture of multiple re-sits.

Mr Gove clearly hates the fact that students are currently able to re-sit their A level modules several times in order to improve their grades. But I don’t understand why. I thought that education was supposed to be all about lifelong learning, about striving to improve and enhance our knowledge.

So why shouldn’t students learn from their exam mistakes and try again? Teenagers who don’t find exams easy but keep trying to better their grades should be encouraged. Not slapped down and told “tough luck, you’ve had your chance. You’re not having another go.”

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Is four too young to start school?

September is the month of new school uniform, sharpened pencils, and melancholy that the long summer holidays are over for another year. With my son starting year 13 tomorrow, his last year of school, I’m feeling extra nostalgic. It seems no time at all since his very first day, when he was a small boy with white-blond hair, a uniform that was far too big for him and a wide grin.

Actually, looking back, I’m sure he started school far too young. His birthday is in August and he was exactly four years and three weeks old when he pitched up in the reception class of a primary school in North Yorkshire, where we lived at the time.

He was utterly bewildered to be plunged into the classroom when all he wanted to do was play outside. At play school in the village hall he’d resolutely refuse to sit still and write or draw, always rushing to ride around on toy cars or play in the sandpit. It would have suited him much better if we'd lived somehwre like Sweden, Denmark or Finland (a superstar performer when it comes to education), where formal school is delayed till the age of seven. Up until then, young children focus on “play-based” learning and spend as much time as possible outdoors.

A primary school teacher friend of mine has been telling me for years that children start school too young here. She reckons school is especially difficult for boys between the ages of four and six. They hate sitting still for long stretches, loathe colouring in endless worksheets (girls love it!) and would far rather be charging around the playground. She always makes sure her lot get plenty of time outside. Even on rainy days she sticks on her coat at the small primary where she teaches and everyone goes outside for 20 minutes to run off steam.

At 17, my son’s had more than enough time to get used to the notion of school – but as a boy who prefers action, he’s still not ultra-keen. Even now he’d rather be whizzing down hills on his bike than sitting in a classroom learning about protons and neutrons and memorising French verbs.

PS: The picture above shows him with his big sister at the age of seven, on a hearty Lake District climb.

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