The aim of education shouldn’t be assessment

Standard
“In stories that we are told often, the line between fact and myth can become so blurred that we easily mistake one for the other. This is true of a story that many people believe about education, even though it’s not real and never really was. It goes like this: Young children go to elementary school mainly to learn the basic skills of reading, writing, and mathematics. These skills are essential so they can do well academically in high school. If they go on to higher education and graduate with a good degree, they’ll find a well-paid job and the country will prosper too”.
This quotation, extracted from Sir Ken Robinson’s brilliant and thorough book ¨Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education¨, perfectly explains the roots of the current crisis of education. This book has encouraged me to look more in depth into the problems of our educational system, in particular of the European Schools.

Education should promote several values and qualities, which the students can then use throughout their lives. Such qualities include critical thinking, curiosity, interest in social and world matters, flexibility and, last but not least, creativity. Educational assessment, or testing, is at its roots the evaluation of the knowledge, skills and attitudes acquired through a learning experience. Assessments and tests can allow teachers to better comprehend each student’s struggle and what teaching methods work better for him\her. Assessment also allows students to engage in self-criticism, and helps them in their ¨search for identity¨, typical of adolescence, by making them figure out, among other things, what they enjoy and are passionate about, and what they are good at. I am therefore not against assessment and testing by principle; in fact, I think that if practiced correctly, they can be very useful tools.However, the current assessment methods in our educational system are highly ineffective, and are turning into a pointless process used to associate students with numbers. Nowadays, teachers don’t assess the broad range of students’ capabilities and skills but merely their notional knowledge, usually evaluated in numbers. Passing exams is increasingly perceived as being the ultimate, most important goal of school education, and many teachers continuously bolster the equation of good grades with the prospect of a successful life. How many times have we students heard teachers saying “Guys, this is really important for your exam, so listen carefully!” implying that whatever facts or skills not necessary for an official assessment are insignificant. European Schools in particular are shifting towards a standardization and harmonization of exams. This means that all exams are more or less equally structured and contain broadly the same content. Such a system opposes any kind of individuality or creativity, since students are forced to answer questions in an impersonal and strictly conformed way. The current highly standardized system compels students to act as emotionless machines rather than sophisticated human beings. Moreover, standardization of tests and exams doesn’t allow a profound teacher-student relationship, crucial in any learning experience, to flourish by jointly assessing the student’s work. Under the current system, the teacher, like the student, has to be detached and bureaucratic, correcting the student’s work in the way he\she has been instructed to.

Education isn’t something that should be applied in the exact same way to all students. And I’m not alone. Fortunately, there are some positive examples showing our education system could change for the better. Finland, for example, has a revolutionary educational system, founded on several values that I completely share. Sir Ken Robinson and many others are pushing for an education more designed to develop every student’s potential as much as possible. We, as students, are the protagonists of this process, and can strongly influence future changes. How? First of all, by promoting critical thinking and the qualities I previously listed. They should become the fundamentals of our education system. Then, as students and future parents, we should involve ourselves as much as possible by engaging in debates on education, policy-making, and down-to-earth teaching. Finally, we shall make society and politicians realize that we are not only students, but also complex, diverse, human beings. Not only chatters, but also learners. Not only mobile phone addicts, but also the future of our society. And we should be treated as such.

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