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to think education has gone to the dogs as 'It doesn't matter if I don't understand it'?

(7 Posts)
AtYourCervix Tue 07-Jun-11 07:31:55

Said by DD this morning before a GCSE science module.

She was spouting large chunks of what sounds like pretty good knowledge until she confessed she has no idea what it means but apparently it doesn't matter as long as she can remember what bit to answer which question with.

So, educaion is so completely exam and results focussed it appears to no longer matter if you actually know anything.

shock angry and a bit sad too.

cory Tue 07-Jun-11 07:43:58

Imho this sounds more like a nervous teenager faced with exams than any more general indication of how education works in this country. There are plenty of teens who take an interest in understanding things- but they don't always sound very confidence-inspiring just before their exams.

Dd veers between "I know everything so I don't need to revise" and "I know nothing and noone's ever taught me anything!".

Fwiw I remember teens revising for their GCSEs in their 70s, at a good private school, by writing out the text book again and again, which doesn't sound like the greatest aid to comprehension. Or writing down exactly what the teacher said about the set piece of English literature. Hopefully, some of it sank in anyway, as many of them went on to enjoy successful careers; the school turned out at least one very famous author.

I myself got the best part of my education at a foreign comp where the done thing was to speak as if you knew nothing and cared even less. It is only afterwards that it has struck me that most of us left that school speaking two or three foreign languages and with a perfectly decent grasp of science and maths.

Goblinchild Tue 07-Jun-11 07:44:26

Agreed, my DS is managing several of his with good recall.
Can you imagine how delighted I was when he was listening to the audiobook of Under Milkwood last week and he said 'This is fantastic, I'm keeping this after the exams finish so I can listen to it again'
Because the idea of keeping any of his Human Geography materials is shock
That's what happens in an exam driven system where the correct answer is more important than understanding or diverting from the path.

wordfactory Tue 07-Jun-11 07:54:42

I think it helps to seperate out what an education is and what qualifications are for.

The former includes a million and one things that will never come up in an exam. It includes the depth and breadth of ones knowledge and interests.

The later may reflect the former, but sometimes they are a means to an end. A way to get onto the next stage of the journey. I recall never having understood capital gains tax when I was sitting my law finals so I just learned it by rote...interestingly many years later when I was faced for the first time with paying it, I suddenly discovered a deep interest in understanding it wink.

babybythesea Tue 07-Jun-11 08:06:30

My Dad always jokes that he was the biggest success of his English teacher - he spent 4 days before he went into his English A'Level learning huge chunks of text and came out with an A. I don't think learning for exams so you can get qualifications is anything new at all.

However, I work on the periphery of the education system and in fact, knowing why is important. So every lesson I teach, kids are expected to justify answers. Which means you need to know what you are talking about. And in science, which is what I teach, there is a big emphasis on knowing not just what to do but why it is done. So, for example, if you are teaching about agar techniques, the children are supposed to not only know how to do it and the theory behind it, but why there techniques are important to society - ie how it is used in the workplace. A sort of science in action, so that they realise that the things they learn are relevant in the real world. As another example, I taught 7 year olds about classification of the animal kingdom and at the end of the lesson I was expected to have discussed not only the actual classification with them, but why scientists classify animals at all.

I think your dd is more stressed about the exam than anything - when you have large amounts of information you need to recall you do stop worrying about how much you understand and become focussed on just remember it. And then, later on, in a different setting, she may just see something on TV, or come across something else which makes her realise she understood more than she thought she did.

Fluter Tue 07-Jun-11 08:27:36

I taught my last ever A-level class yesterday, and I'm afraid to say, yes, state education in this country is all about passing exams. We're only just given enough time to teach the parts of the course which are likely to be on the exam, pushed (by parents, students and managers) into spoon feeding the kids and trying to get them to learn by rote (ha! they don't have to memorise poetry or anything anymore so they have no idea how to memorise anything beyond the TV schedule) and spew it out in the exam. As for picking up a textbook and actually reading it..... not a chance. And I'm sorry, parents out there, but it's very easy to spot the students whose parents are taking an active part in their education and those who don't give a monkeys. The results of the students reflect it.

The pressure on us to hit statistics is immense. Staff meetings always have a 'how is this action going to impact on our statistics' element, and it is incredibly difficult to get rid of students who are disruptive or only there because it's less hassle than signing on, because of retention statistics.

My considered opinion is that something terrible goes wrong at 11-14. Many of the students I have seen at 16+ are incapable of working something out themselves, going to a library and selecting a range of sources to work from; following instructions (how difficult is it, really, to follow an instruction which says your essay must be produced in Word or similar, using 12 point times font, with a space between each paragraph and a list of the book(s) you used at the end); or even remember an instruction overnight (read the headline on a newspaper tomorrow morning before you come into class) without writing it down. And if they write it down they either lose the piece of paper or forget to look at it later. And as for turning up for class with a pen and piece of paper, hahahahaha. Don't make me laugh. And these students are legally able to join the army and get married. Too, too scarey.

Am I jaded. Yes. And seriously considering home schooling.

cory Tue 07-Jun-11 08:45:03

As a university teacher, I have always felt that it is a mistake to hand out the evaluation questionnaires the week before exam weeks.

However thirsting for knowledge the students have shown themselves throughout the year, by the time exam week is looming that is all they can think about and that is going to colour their answers. So at that particular point in time they are not thinking "has this teaching been stimulating and expanded my horizons?" but "am I likely to get a good grade?" and "will this come up in the exam?"- and they will evaluate every feature of the course accordingly. If you speak to them later you can get a totally different response and far more intelligent.

But as academic teachers we are judged on those pre-exam feelings.

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