Why does my heart sink every time I read another report on testing our kids?
It sinks because testing doesn’t do much good but can do a world of harm:
– Because educating for results, which inevitably happens, is disruptive, destructive and not about the broad world of learning at all.
– Because although it’s supposed to be a way of making adults accountable and improve, it inevitably reflects back on the children usually in coercive and unpleasant ways.
– Because it pollutes the whole purpose and process of education which is about ongoing individual development, not chasing short term outcomes.
– Because it creates labels – usually inaccurate ones – about the ability of a child which can entrap them for life.
– Because the need to measure and have statistics is an adult obsession which only fulfils parental and political objectives and is of no value to a child.
– Because every character and personality, every genetic and environmental influence is different in every child, but tests test as if these were all the same.
– Because testing doesn’t make children cleverer or more educated, it puts them off and wastes their time.
– Because it makes a farce of education, turning it into a grade grabbing race that leaves too many failures in its wake, rather than being an uplifting process and approach to life – for all – that carries on throughout life.
– Because it assumes every child is the same and will grow in the same way in the same time and same climate which is totally wrong. Children are all very different and change radically as they grow.
Think about growing plants – the educational process has often been compared to that. When we set plants we know different ones need different approaches; different soil – sandy or peat, acid or alkaline, they need different climates – warm or cool, light or shade, open or protected. And however much you go out there with your ruler and measure how much your plant has grown, it’s not going to make one little tiny bit of difference whether that plant will thrive or not!
Same with education. As the famous educationalist John Holt said; nobody grew any taller for being measured.
Raising and educating children is a long and unpredictable process that is at the mercy of all sorts of intangibles; everything changes constantly as it happens. We cannot control it most of the time. We can just make it the best we can as we go along.
Constantly measuring it will not help the process one bit, but it will certainly hamper it through focus on outcomes which are outside the child, rather than focussing on the needs that are within.
What we need to do is trust, review our approaches and our parenting constantly, create a climate that is warm and encouraging, stimulating and supportive and our children will grow and become educated. Constant testing and measuring, and the unpleasant outcomes that result from it, are not necessary. They are not to do with the child, but are to do with our own adult failings.
We should sort out our adult inadequacies and have more respect and faith in our children than that!