Magazine article English Drama Media

Education by Numbers: The Tyranny of Testing

Magazine article English Drama Media

Education by Numbers: The Tyranny of Testing

Article excerpt


Education by Numbers:

The Tyranny of Testing

Warwick Mansell

Politico's, 2007, 19.99 [pounds sterling]

ISBN 978-184275-199-2

Warwick Mansell writes as a 'shocked' observer, shocked at a generation of youngsters reduced to the role of performance indicators for data collection in the remaindered management model that now governs 'education, education, education' in England (they're doing things differently elsewhere).

Test scores and levels simply sort pupils into crude categories and provide little by way of pedagogical input. In the national system they are not designed to do so: the KS2 results have no bearing on secondary choices, the KS1 results are merely predictors of performance at KS2, and the KS3 results have no bearing on GCSE options. Their principal use--this is Mansell's case--is to provide performance statistics in a sophisticated system of data gathering for monitoring schools. The pupils are pawns in a management game in which 'results' are both ends and means, 'results' in terms of narrow ranges, (level 4, grades A*-C...) on which everything seems to depend and so all energies are devolved--a regime for teachers and taught alike learning how to fail in an increasingly reductive curriculum.

Much of this you know: erratic marking of KS3 English and 'a painting to numbers approach to literacy':

   Journalists, whom pupils are
   repeatedly asked to ape ... use
   semi-colons very sparingly if
   at all, for example. Varying
   sentence length is not something
   I've ever been encouraged to
   do either in training or in my
   working life.

   ...Other techniques
   recommended ... because pupils
   will be rewarded in the mark
   scheme for their use are not just
   unnecessary for, but arguably
   antithetical to, good writing....
   pupils are encouraged to insert
   phrases such as 'I think' before
   an opinion to remind the
   examiner that a poem has
   affected them personally. To a
   professional writer, this phrase
   jars. It is usually only needed to
   qualify an opinion as a personal
   view. In a reaction to a poem this
   would be taken as given. Pupils
   are also repeatedly advised to
   use 'discourse markers'. These
   are phrases, such as 'however',
   'alternatively' and 'on the other
   hand', which are usually used to
   link paragraphs.... high grades
   are associated with pupils using
   these phrases effectively. … 
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