Friday, June 14, 2013

England, What's Going On?

This morning, June Breivik highlighted the archaic nature of exams as proof that learning has occurred. I recently moved to the United Kingdom from New Zealand, which coincides with the announcement in England that GCSE assessment is to take a backwards step and again become solely exam focused. I nearly fell off my chair at the news. Fortunately, I moved my family to Wales where the system is different. For example, in the primary years, the Welsh system values experiential learning to a much greater extent than the English system, which is hung up on making grades from a very early age. 

I reflected heavily on June Breivik's comment relating to the relevance of conventional education in a world where knowledge is being re-written no sooner than it has been created. I once knew a university Professor who was in the process of writing a text book; perhaps more accurately, a brick. I witnessed the aforementioned sweat blood and tears but, meanwhile, I couldn't help but wonder how long it would be until his lifetime's work would be redundant. Nevertheless, this was my concern, not his. The Professor's view on digitally mediated knowledge creation was, "codswallop". 

In juxtaposition, I was privileged to undertake research on behalf of a visionary Professor who was interested in the development of non-technical skills among veterinary students. Without doubt, it is important for veterinary students to memorize certain content because it's tricky to ask Google when one has their arm up a cow's ass, which incidentally is what large animal veterinarians spend most of their time doing. However, a student does also need to develop the skills to communicate with clients and explain why their beloved pet cat needs to be put to sleep. 

Returning to the reason that I nearly fell off my chair is because I am a child of England's assessment-completely-by-exam system of the 1990's. Reflecting on that time, I have often described myself as an exam monkey. In other words, I was very good at memorizing the information that old exam papers told me would be important and then forgetting that information the second that I walked out of the exam. Good school grades kept me on the train to a Russell Group university, from which I graduated at 21 years old with a BA(Hons) and a completely empty brain. 

So, June Breivik propelled thoughts of static England back to the forefront on my mind. While EDEN experts are talking about the new Digital Age mindsets of 'disruptive education' and 'chaotic learning', policy makers in England appear to be using Industrial Age mindsets to promote archaic static education. Unless this situation changes, I will be keeping my children on the Welsh side of the border. 

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