i Editor's Letter: Teaching kids just to pass exams is self-destructive


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So, GCSEs are to join O-levels and CSEs in the great wastepaper bin in the sky of unlamented past exams. Thousands of words will be spilt on this, but, sadly, too few will be free from political dogma. Because what really needs overhauling is the way our children are taught – not just the exams.

There are at least three major contributors to the mess we have got ourselves in today: declining standards compared with our international competitors and one of the most segregated (by socio-economics) of developed societies' education systems. None of which is to denigrate how hard pupils currently work.

First, the misguided move away from grammar schools, which – better than anything else we have come up with – enabled, or enable (as 170-odd survive) brighter children from poorer backgrounds to get a real leg-up.

Second, there is rationalisation of, and competition between, exam boards, which has fuelled (and there is no better way of saying this) the much talked-about "race to the bottom" with all the scandalous tipping-off of teachers and other corruption that is inevitable under such a set-up.

Third, and possibly most harmful of all: the 1992 introduction of the pernicious school league tables. This, above all, enables the context in which the warped values of the exam boards can thrive.

Whether the exams are called O-levels, GCSEs, EBCs or EBaccs is immaterial if we persist in the entirely self-destructive method of teaching our children primarily to pass exams, rather than actually educating them. Some things really are too precious and vital to be left to the open market.