Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Should We Abolish Testing? Time to Share Your Thoughts: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Should We Abolish Testing? Time to Share Your Thoughts: News

Article excerpt

A place for the big questions at the London Festival of Education.

England should move away from high-stakes external testing and towards teacher-led assessment if it wants to emulate the educational success of Scandinavian countries, according to an expert.

Pasi Sahlberg, one of the leading Finnish authorities on education reform, said the English system relied too much on external, standardised testing, often to the detriment of pupils and teachers.

Mr Sahlberg, who is director of the Finnish Ministry of Education's Centre for International Mobility, will show educators that there is an alternative approach at the London Festival of Education in November.

The one-day festival is being organised by a small group including TES and the University of London's Institute of Education (IoE).

Mr Sahlberg is among a number of high-profile figures, including education secretary Michael Gove, who will debate the future of exams in England at the event.

Speaking about the English system, Mr Sahlberg said: "It is relying too much on external standardised assessment instead of what we have in Finland, which is school-based, teacher-led continuous assessment.

"Regardless of how well teachers are trained, they cannot do things they would like to do in the classroom because there is too much testing.

"Too often, testing drives teachers' decisions in the classroom and in relation to their own professional development. I'm going to show that there is an alternative way to do student assessment and evaluation that is very close to what Finland is doing."

Chris Husbands, director of the IoE, said he hoped the event would bring together the voices of policymakers to debate some of the underlying and current issues around exams, particularly in light of the GCSE grading row.

"I think what the events of this summer have shown is that just underneath the surface of every education system are some really interesting and challenging questions," Professor Husbands said. "There are some really tough questions that the system as a whole has to face. I hope we can get those things out in the open."

Up to 2,000 teachers, academics, parents, pupils and policy-makers are expected at the festival, which is being held on Saturday 17 November at the IoE in Bloomsbury, central London. …

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