Does education have to be so tested?

Short answer; it doesn’t.

Longer answer; it only serves the grown-ups and their quest for climbing Stats!

Next question: is this of any value to the learners?

Answer; not really.

The problem is it’s all got out of hand.

The strategies the government enforce on schools to test, test and test again are supposed to improve the quality of education, supposed to raise standards, supposed to improve pupils’ performance by identifying areas of need, supposed to improve the level of teaching.

But the reality is that none of this happens. Test results don’t really raise standards or improve the quality of education or teaching because they do not give a clear picture.

It is human nature, in a range of circumstances, that we are testing here. Not robots. And with human nature you rarely can test for a clear result.

Results show a minimal performance on one day, in one scenario; a performance that is the result of so many influences anyway, some personal, some circumstantial, some related to others. So what are you testing?

And even if they do identify needs, which is questionable with the result of a mere test, these are not subsequently catered for sufficiently because there isn’t the resources to do so.

What we are dealing with here are people. Education is about developing people. People change daily, in response to their situation, in response to each other, physiologically, emotionally, intellectually. We can test memory – in one moment in time – and that’s about it. But what use is that in the next moment?

What testing does it stress pupils and staff, waste their time and makes them afraid. Afraid of doing wrong, losing respect, feeling shame, afraid of friends and colleagues, whatever. Fear is not a good climate in which to be learning or teaching.

Testing and constantly regulating is not conducive to productive learning. And what’s so destructive about it is that it makes parents feel that if the learning can’t be measured it isn’t valuable, which is diabolically wrong. 

As home educators it’s possible to educate successfully without ever doing any school style tests. And much of what you do will not be testable anyway but still be extremely valuable to your child’s educational development. Conversation is a good example of this. Conversations broaden minds, answers questions, expands knowledge, develops mental agility, extends language, stimulates and provokes motivation. But can you measure this? No! Does that make it less useful? No!

I’m not saying you shouldn’t review and reassess what you’re doing, how you’re children are learning, what they’re achieving, and what they might need to achieve, whether there are changes you need to make. Sometimes kids like to test themselves. Sometimes doing mock exams and practice tests is useful. Some like to set themselves challenges and targets to achieve.

But we need to be clear about what we’re doing it for and whether we need to do them at all.

Testing is the bane of education, it is not an enhancer of it. We’d serve our children better if we stopped testing and started trusting as I say in this blog here.

As a home educator, you’ll rarely need it. So if that’s worrying you, I should stop, and get on with the real business of providing many and varied stimulating experiences instead.

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9 thoughts on “Does education have to be so tested?

  1. Pingback: Kids don’t particularly needs schools to learn! | Ross Mountney's Notebook

  2. I never intend to test my children, i agree with you that it is not necessary although i would like your view on worksheets! I don’t have a printer at the mo and everyone seems to work with twinkle worksheets. My oldest is 5 and tbh she doesn’t have much interest in this form of learning..rather oral,visual, practical so i’m reluctant to push her although i see some benefits of this .
    she enjoys creative activities and could spend hours drawing but so far not interested in reading and writing . Should i push this? Sorry for epic post would just love your input as i feel very behind with her academically speaking.:(

    • Hi Lindsey, lovely you visited and glad to help.
      Re worksheets; they are just one type of approach in a learning process and other approaches are oral, visual, practical – as you are already doing. Ask: what learning is the worksheet aiding? Subject matter? – which you could approach in other ways. Academic skills? Which can bore a child to death if you do too much too early – and put them off learning of any sort as a consequence, for learning that’s real and practical is much more engaging. Worksheets can be helpful for reference, or if the kids like them, or as an alternative tool. But other approaches that engage a young child more practically are more likely to have a lasting effect. As I said in the post about teen HE; many youngsters come to formalising their practical learning in academic ways when the need arises. Drawing and creative activities develop skills that will eventually be needed in reading and writing, and enhance mental agility which can all be transferred to more academic practises when required – so carry on with them. And I’m feeling that if you’re providing stimulating activities through those other approaches you have no need to push! Hope this helps!

  3. Brilliantly put. I hated tests at school, I was never very good at remembering what I thought was useless information – I think all the testing I went through just made me shut down and stop learning because I thought I wasn’t very good at it. This experience has made me question the education system and offer a choice to my children.

  4. This is very true. I was very surprised to read recently that some schools test reception children (4-5 years) when they start primary school so that they can test them again later to see how well they’ve improved, as if the teacher would have no clue how they were progressing without testing them. It’s nonsense and unnecessary stress.

  5. Ross, this is so well put, thank you! Please may I quote some of what you’ve said on my blog? Family and friends have look horrified when I tell them home educating families don’t HAVE to put their children through SATs or GCSEs, and wonder what will become of ours if we don’t put them through those tests. They may WANT to do GCSEs when they’re older, and that will be their choice, but they may find other ways in life. 🙂

    • Yes – do please share in any way that helps. This work here is to always help spread understanding. People seem to think test results make an educated child, which is so inaccurate and hang their child’s progress on that from a young age which can be devastating.. Regular school testing is pretty well a waste of time, especially early on. And quite different to gaining qualifications at a later date should the learner choose. So pleased you left your comment, thank you.

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