I’m fuming. Just fuming. I love the blogosphere as it gives people a chance to air their opinions and even though many are vastly different to mine I often find them very interesting. I like seeing other points of view and debating them. I’ve even been known to change my PoV based on these debates. It is one of the reasons that the blogosphere is just fantastic. However I today read a paragraph in a blog post on the new exams for 15/16 year-olds that made me just go mental.
Stretching the length of an exam to 3 hours also makes the examinations more unequal. Poorer children with less nutrition will struggle to maintain mental stamina. Children who grow up in high rise flats from birth will have much weaker fine motor skills than children who have enjoyed healthy outdoor climbing and active pursuits from birth. Expecting inner-city children to hold a pen for 3 hours and write furiously to reach that mythical gold standard will punish those who over the years do not have the necessary endurance due to health and income inequalities.
Now of course the fact the author used the numerical 3 instead of the written three did annoy me a tad. The rule of thumb is single figure number are written and double digits and above the numerical form is used but that was small-fry compared to the sentiment.
Basically if you are poor then you won’t be able to sit still for three hours or hold a pen. If you don’t have your butler or maid serve you a fresh green salad each night and instead have a diet of Iceland frozen fish and chips then you won’t have the ability to concentrate. I seem to recall that I didn’t have a maid or a butler and in fact grew up on a council estate and didn’t get to do such things as outdoor climbing but I was one of the very best in my school at exams. One of the very best.
You see exam ability has nothing to do with your diet or your income or what you do in your spare time. It has far more to do with your ability to think on your feet (or sitting down but you know what I mean) and recall information and be able to get that information written up in the best way possible. Some people are better at exams and some are better at coursework. That is a fact but there isn’t a shred evidence to say it has a thing to with diet or income or anything else.
I was pretty awful at coursework because I was a lazy arse. I preferred to watch TV or play football in the evening’s than sit and work. For example I have an A-Level in Geography at a B grade but in the five exams I got five A’s, three of them above 97%. That shows just how awful my coursework was. I actually started my coursework at 12:07PM on the Sunday before it was due and finished at 07:40 on the Monday when it was due to be handed in. So I worked for 19+ hours straight (bar dinner and many drinks/loo breaks). Is this because of my diet or background or is it because I was a lazy so and so?
Yes if you have a better home life then you’ll have a better chance to succeed but heck rich people have bad home lives and poor people can have amazing home lives. It depends far more about on the parental interest and situation than it does on money. If a rich parents are always at each others throats and having affairs then the kid may not have a great home life and be forgotten and left to his/her own devices. If a single mother or father is there showing a strong interest in their son/daughter and helping them closely through life then they’ll have a stable home life.
Background has zero to do with an ability to sit a three hour exam. Zero. To suggest such a thing is effectively writing off a large percentage of society and belittling them and telling them they’ll amount to nothing if we go to an all examination system. This is a disgraceful stance to have. Disgraceful isn’t a strong enough word. Lets go to a thesaurus to see if I can find a stronger word. I’m going to go with opprobrious and even vulgar would do.
You may not like these proposals. A lot won’t (but on the other hand a lot might). I know I’d have done far better in an all exam based system because I relished the challenge. I never ever failed any examination at any level because of this. It won’t be for all but it would’ve been for me. It would’ve fitted in with my psyche. However my diet wasn’t great but to say this would’ve effected my ability to hold a pen for three hours is madness. Sheer and utter madness.
I’m still livid and it’s been nearly half an hour now since I read it. How dare someone effectively say that inner-city children don’t have the ability to sit still and hold a pen and concentrate for three hours. Of course they can and many get amazing exam results. Many people living in posh households get rubbish exam results. To just tarnish a whole section of society like this is egregious.
I need to go calm down a bit…