This past week I have sat back and observed as newspaper after newspaper has printed articles criticising the difficulty of SAT’s tests which took place from last Monday (09/05) onwards. If we’re being honest, I felt sure at first that these would assuredly turn out to be no more than petty complaints: a few parents voicing their collective irritation at the notion of yet more pointless examinations for todays youth. A valid point perhaps, but nothing new. That was until I decided to take the test myself.
Now this was an online test so I’ve no idea if or not it was the actual test children sat, or simply a practice, eitherway I was aghast: I got 40%… in an English exam!!!*
This disturbed me for two reasons. Firstly as, whilst I’d never pretend to be a genius at any subject, English has always been my strongest of the core subjects, and also, one of my best subjects overall. Throughout both primary and secondary education. To take a test that is aimed at 11-year-olds and get less than 50% shook me.
Now, let me just stop and highlight that point for a second: it shook me!
An adult with 26 years to her name, a frequent blogger and freelance writer, a person who is, as you can probably tell, firm in her beliefs and convictions. It shook me, my confidence. So what kind of affect are tests such as these having on the young and impressionable minds being moulded by our education system? Surely this kind of testing is not conducive to the creation of great literary artists, or to lighting the fires of passion for learning within the hearts of these youngsters?
And if that’s the case, what good are they then?!
I’m sorry if I mistook the point of education, but I was under the impression that it’s job was to teach children, help them grow, mature and find their individual passions in life. Not spew out well-taught clones.
And whilst we’re dancing around the subject, what about the children who don’t fit the box? Those whose mind process works differently, either because of an underlying problem or else a past accident/incident. Are they tossed aside, branded as stupid, lazy or inatentive? Einstein was an autistic (some would argue schizophrenic) boy, who failed maths: I wonder where our modern education system would peg him?
Secondly, the questions were tricky for me (to my shame, I’ll admit this) because, although based on concepts that I vaguely remember learning in my own school days, they were, by and large, skills that I’ve never had use for.
When conversing with a friend/business partner/client, has it ever, in history, become necessary to point out the correct/incorrect use of a preposition? Or which word in a sentence is the adverb? Certainly, I can see this information as being useful for certain professions: teaching English in a foreign land for example, but otherwise it’s purely academic.
So why in the test were most of the questions along the lines of ‘Which of the following words is a preposition?’
Surely it’s not important to teach 7 – 11 year olds this stuff? At that age I remember a few of my peers still having difficulties spelling and reading (which, by the way, is fine, we’re all fully literate now) and as for the rest of the class, surely between those ages the most important things to be certain of are the graspings of punctuation and grammar. So to say, questions based around the proper use of semi-colons, brackets, speechmarks, and the correct sentence structure for words like affect and effect would surely be much more important, and useful tools at such a key stage. Particularly as the misuse of affect and effect is a pet-peeve of mine.
To sum up, it disturbs me that at the age of eleven (and younger, lets face it) children are being asked to fit into a mould created by a government authority that cares little for their individual talents and dreams, and more for a chart or graph that dictates a ‘national average’.
Unfortunately, this is not something that I see improving anytime soon unless something drastic happens. But I will say this: I scored 40% on my KS2 SAT’s, and I’m absolutely fine. Clearly I’m not illiterate and my confusion about pronouns and subjunctive clauses has not impacted my life at all. Heck, I’m writing now and whilst I’ll agree that I’m no great literary artist, I hope you’d agree that I’m not exactly grammatically inept either.
*As I took the English exam, I will focus on the subject of English throughout, but that is not to say these concerns aren’t applicable to the Maths and Science exams too.