Just because you did it when you were in school doesn’t necessarily mean it was a particularly good idea.
The decision by the provincial government to eliminate all but two provincial exams has brought howls from some quarters, and applause from others (and we’re not just talking about students, here).
As of next year, students will only have to sit for province-wide testing in English and math. The rest of their grades will come from evaluations from their classroom teachers. Some of it will doubtless still be in the form of tests, while other chunks could come from projects, assignments and even participation.
Many experts say this is the right move. High-pressure exams do not, on the whole, do a particularly good job of determining what someone has learned.
It’s helpful in evaluating how well someone can take a test, but in terms of actual learning, exams fall short of telling you how well someone knows a particular subject.
To do well on an exam, one must have a good short-term memory (hence the time-honoured tradition of ‘cramming’) and be able to regurgitate all of that within a structured timeline.
The fact of the matter is that some people just test better than others.
That doesn’t, in practice, actually mean that they have learned the material better, and certainly not for the long-term.
Be honest. How much do you remember from your Grade 12 history final? Chemistry?
We bet that ‘not much’ would be the most common answer on that multiple choice question.
And does it really matter?
All those facts you crammed into your head can be easily and quickly accessed any time you want on the internet. Which most teens and young adults these days access through their ever-present smartphone.
We’re not arguing that we shouldn’t attempt to teach students anything and let them leave high school as empty vessels. But being able to remember the exact year, the chemical formula, the sub-species, is, for the most part, not terribly useful long-term information.
But some argue that we’re just coddling today’s generation of students, to their own eventual detriment.
Kids learn to handle pressure through any number of events, and that’s not enough of a reason to warrant continuing with a flawed tradition.
We guarantee, the teachers know who has learned the stuff and who hasn’t. Let them be the judge.