in another place is likely to be repeated here.
I was given this dire news by a senior teacher at MsW's school yesterday. She is concerned about just how the work of her students will be judged in relation to other students.
"We tell them that exam results are not the most important things in life but in reality they do matter," she told me with a sigh.
I thought about this as I pedalled home. I never liked exams, not even the "tests" in primary school. We had weekly "Friday tests" then. You would be tested on what you had managed to learn in the previous four days. There would be "mental", "arithmetic", "spelling", "reading comprehension" and "composition" every week. Sometimes there would be "social studies" or "nature studies". With every one of those things came "writing" and "neatness". I consistently failed "writing" and "neatness". I would get full marks for everything else - and then the teacher would take off marks. It never seemed fair to me. I am never sure why I went on trying to do my best. Why didn't I just give up?
Then, in high school, we had "proper" exams. These happened at the end of every term. They were school baseduntil we reached the "Intermediate certificate". At the end of that year, the equivalent of the year before the old "O" level examinations in Upover, we sat the PEB exams (Public Examination Board). Naturally I did not do well because I was expected to handwrite them.
I don't know what I expected or why I hoped it would be any different but it was devastating to have worked hard and almost fail. It is this that makes me concerned for the students who have been so drastically downgraded. If they are capable and able students and they have worked hard then downgrading them for reasons unrelated to their ability is wrong.
I am aware of the arguments that there is a need for a greater diversity of students in universities. That's fine - as long as those students are actually capable of doing the work and meeting the required standards. It is not good if students are being accepted simply because they come from a particular grouping and then need to be nurtured and "passed" throughout their course.
Is it really right to allow a student to spend twelve years obtaining a degree? This is perhaps the worst example I know but I know others who have spent six, seven and eight years being "full time" students while doing a degree that should have taken no more than four years. Their academic records show multiple "fails" and no more than "passes". Even at the end of their courses they needed to be coached through writing an essay or doing another assignment. All of them come "diverse" backgrounds. Nobody has dared to tell them, "Perhaps university is not for you." At least one of them knew that and wept in front of me more than once while we were trying to sort out the muddled writing in an essay.
It is not kind to these students. One of them finally gained a degree but couldn't get a job. He went off to do an apprenticeship in a practical trade. He has been employed throughout the pandemic and, when I saw him recently, he told me, "I wasted six years of my life at university. I should have gone to do this from the start."
I know not everyone would agree. There are people who would say that his university experience was not "wasted" but he would not agree.
We need to think about why people are going to university. What is the purpose of a university degree? There are strong suggestions here that university is supposed to train people to be "job ready in areas society needs". I disagree. It should be a place of exploration - for the most able.