Friday, August 24, 2007

Testing Times

There is clearly much wrong with the school examination system in the UK. For Heaven's sake, in spite of being able to pick and choose their subjects, almost ad lib (although, since Latin hardly appears on the curriculum nowadays, I suppose that needs some explanation), there are some who actually fail their GCSE.
This is unthinkable in a politically correct society where everybody has to win.
I do recall that, when I sat for the university entrance examination in England, it was called matriculation in those days, I had little choice in the subjects. By some quirk of the system, as I wished to qualify in three science subjects, Chemistry, Electricity and Magnetism and Heat, Light and Sound (they were three separate subjects then), I had to take a language, French, to a lower standard. As, at the time, this was my first language, I thought it a rather pleasant quirk.
By some failing on the part of the examiners, I passed – but many didn't.
And surely that is the whole point of exams.
When I took mine, it was an examination of my ability to write and understand the English language, to be able to perform elementary mathematical calculations and, in general, to have some sort of a clue as to what made the world go round.
I must confess that, had I been expected to perform in some of the subjects currently available, I might have been stymied. Information and Communication Technology I would probably mistaken for the ability to read and write, Health and Social Care would have left me baffled although I might have related to Leisure and Tourism, school holidays always having been one of my favourites. Media studies, I suppose, would be watching television and a comprehensive analysis of the Daily Mail. Once again, I would have flunked.
But I think that most prospective employers were glad to find someone who, although lacking in some of the more arcane subjects, could read, write and add up.
But as the system is clearly an infringement of human rights inasmuch as it deprives a very small minority of a pass mark, perhaps the GCSE certificate should be issued at the same time as a birth certificate.
And a command of reading and writing English is essential. How else do you think the immigrants fill out their forms for social assistance?


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