Colin Richards contributes to the current discussion of testing and examinations in his post…
At this time of the year when we have an understandable, if unhealthy, pre-occupation with testing and examinations, I came across this description of “education” under the Revised Code (1862) written by Charles Birchenough in 1938. With only minor changes and with apologies for the class-and sexist nature of the language it could be a description of the worst features of our current performance-obsessed system. Note particularly the passage in bold:
“Enthusiasm for results got anyhow was to replace enthusiasm for education, for improving methods, for alertness to make the school work meaningful. The child became a money-earning unit to be driven, the teacher a sort of foreman whose business it was to keep his gang hard at work…..A more short-sighted policy could hardly have been devised. It betokened an entire want of imagination and understanding of what was and what was not fundamental. It denied that there was such a thing as a science of education. Initiative on the part of the teacher was not wanted, he was a cog in a machine, and it totally disregarded what in these days, viz. diverse local conditions is regarded as fundamental. The school in a poor neighbourhood was to reach exactly the same standard as the comfortable school attended by a good class of children. If it did not it was to be penalised. Cast-iron annual standards were applied to the whole country. The whole arrangement was ridiculously simple.”
The Revised Code desperately needed to be revised. So does our contemporary test-ridden regime with its reductionist assumptions. It took 35 years to abolish the Code. We, and especially our pupils and students, cannot wait that long.
What do you make of Colin’s thoughts? Let us know in the comments below or via Twitter.
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