Archive for the ‘Schools’ Category

When parents can’t say “no”…

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

As an avid watcher of the German version of “Supernanny”, I found this article from the education section of the BBC News website particularly interesting.

I think there used to be an idea, that it was underprivileged children that were disruptive in schools. This article suggests something else: that spoilt children are disruptive because their parents cannot say “no” at home.

In particular the story about the child who broke is own Playstation and then pestered his mother for a whole week until she bought him a new one.

I read such stories almost in horror, as I don’t want to make such mistakes with my own daughter. Indeed, much of the “Supernanny” episodes here deal with children who have never learnt that there are limits to what is acceptable.

I hope to strike the right balance between showing my daughter how much she means to me without going so far that she learns to use this against me (or her teachers) later on.

Pupils and tests in English schools

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

A recent BBC News article reported that school children in tested more than many other western countries.

Knowing that testing has been perceived to be on the increase, I thought back to my school days. We did have quite a bit of testing, even then.

I think that maybe it is not the amount of testing that has changed, but the value placed on it.

For example, I remember regularly being tested on French and German vocabulary, even Latin. But these tests were at most only noted by my teacher and used to award assessment grades once each term. They may have also been commented on in my end-of-year report.

At the end of each year there were exams, but with the exception of GCSEs and A-Levels, these were internal exams. The results were passed on to my parents, the report showing what I had scored and the overall range of scores so that they could see roughly where I was compared to other pupils in my school year.

None of this information was used to compile league tables. At no time am I aware of my results being passed on to any other institution – until my A-Level results were shared with my future University.

So perhaps the Government should consider reducing the pressure on schools and pupils by getting rid of the league tables again – or at least not publishing them so openly. Let the pupils be tested without the threat of their results appearing in national newspapers!

Learning to speak a language – and be tested on it

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

I remember when GCSEs were first introduced – I myself was in the first year to take them for mathematics, and the second year for other subjects such as languages. The idea was to put more emphasis on being able to do something, than being able to be tested on it.

So in languages more effort was put in being able to speak a language and make yourself understood, and a little bit less was put into writing it and the grammar – something that my university would later complain about.

So the idea that pupils should no longer have oral examinations on these subjects is a bit worrying – for me it seems like another step back from leaning the language thoroughly.

I don’t remember that much about my GCSE oral exams, but I remember that certain situations had to be prepared and you learnt a lot of set phrases at the time. I do, however, clearly remember my A-level German oral exam (which I got an ‘A’ in 🙂 and it was maybe stressful, but it was a positive experience to come out of the exam and to be able to say that I had managed to keep going in German for the entire duration.

So why get rid of this part of the exam process?  There is nothing to be gained in my opinion from only having the spoken skills assessed – as at the first opportunity in the workplace these skills may really be tested.

I used to interview students coming to Germany for placements here – and I carried out the interviews in German.  Of course, having been through the system myself, I had an advantage over a native speaker in that I knew what vocabulary a student would or would not know, and could as such make the interview easy or difficult.

In fact, it was not only important to be able to speak German, but to have the confidence to do it!

I gained a lot of confidence in my A-level oral exam – and a lot more on subsequent trips to Germany when I sometimes had no alternative but to explain myself in German.

Please don’t take this confidence booster away from today’s schoolchildren!


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