There’s nothing worse than having a huge test coming up; the stress of whether you’re going to do well, the constant procrastination of studying because you don’t want to think about it, the late nights spent staring at textbooks not absorbing anything. Tests are a huge part of the modern schooling system, but who do they actually benefit? It’s hard to feel sympathy for students who’ve stayed up the whole night playing video games as opposed to writing out a pile of cue cards in preparation for their final exams, but the points made the morning before the giant exam are often valid. There are a multitude of reasons that we ought to be focusing on teaching our students as opposed to testing them.
The whole reason that standardized tests, and the culture of results based education exists, is in order to perpetuate a competitive model of education. According to this model students are doing everything possible to obtain better scores than their contemporaries so that they can battle for a few spots at more prestigious centres of higher learning. Students will work together less due to this, and when they do work together they’re likely to form cliques, which are still exclusive, as opposed to openly aiding anyone in need of help. This lack of collaboration leads to inferior learning. There is not a single class in this country or on this planet where one student knows everything, in every case there is something to be gained from collaboration, but why collaborate when your marks are based on a curve? You succeed, score-wise, when others fail.
So why is this system used? Why, if it’s so patently obvious that tests pit students against one another, would this system be perpetuated? Because it’s simple. Because it’s easier to slide a scantron sheet through a machine and be fed a simple number to tack onto a child’s record as opposed to actually getting to understand their strengths and weaknesses. This absolutist manner of teaching children results in their being cookie-cut so that all their creativity is punished as opposed to being nurtured. Why bother coming up with creative and novel solutions when all that’ll happen is you dropping in prospects as a result? This thinking hurts the students who are subjected to it. Worse yet, it deprives our society of thoughtful minds by neutering their creative juices.
Unfortunately however, more holistic analysis of students requires teachers’ time, and teachers are expensive. As governments continue to push for cheaper education with higher results one of the first things to get cut is the teachers. Class sizes increase and it becomes infeasible to expect a teacher to take the time to engage with every student. Instead, they are there to ensure cheating must be sophisticated if it is to succeed. Cheating, of course, is likely to occur in a test-based system. Why bother to learn the material if the only thing needed from you is the correct letter grade? Retaining knowledge is extraneous after the test.
Not only does test-based learning harm everyone involved in such an educational system, but it also disproportionately harms already at-risk groups. Girls have been shown to prosper better in a continuous evaluation based model, whereas boys are comparatively better placed to succeed in situations where tests are infrequent but worth more. As the latter case is closer to our current class climate, we’re giving already advantaged males an even greater leg up. Fewer educated women means fewer discoveries made, resulting in lower societal productivity. Pardon the repetition here, but, this system of testing hurts us all.
The final issue with this system is it doesn’t teach students how to learn. Once a test is done it’s assumed that the learning in that area is complete. This is a short-termist manner of approaching learning. The truth is that learning is always important to engage with. We ought to always be increasing our knowledge basis in order to continue to improve ourselves. This approach results in continued improvement of financial prospects, but even more importantly, it allows us to better understand ourselves.
Written by Marcomms Intern, Jack Seaberry.