Teachers: teaching the subject or just raising the statistics?

 

Thursday, October 1st

You may have noticed that I had a piece in the Guardian’s education section over the summer about an online discussion among history teachers as to which board offered the “easiest” exams.

Teachers were debating with each other, over several years, on the schoolhistory.co.uk website, which version of the modern world history GCSE offered the easiest,  most predictable questions.

One teacher, who started the debate, talked at length about the benefits of moving from AQA to OCR. He said of OCR’s exams: “The questions are very straightforward and at least 40% easier!” He said that the coursework requirements were also less exacting for OCR, and that less ground had to be covered with the teaching. This was very much a good thing.

He added: “I hate the fact that we have to shop around and play the system and find the easiest exam board/paper. Wouldn’t it be better if everyone was playing on a level playing field?”

I just come back to it now because what I didn’t find space to include in the piece was that, near the end of the discussion, the verdict from the teacher who started it was that, after the 2008 exams, his statistics had improved sharply.

He said: “My OCR pass rate was 64% and our FFT [Fischer Family Trust] Type ‘B’ residual was a positive 0.3!”

This was taken as complete vindication of his decision to switch from AQA to OCR.

I’ll try not to sound too pompous or moralising here, but  is this really what education now comes to? A teacher’s quality can be summed up, accurately, of course,  in a number between 0 and 1.

And, if  this system encourages teachers to search out nicely “predictable” exams and to teach remorselessly to the test, so be it.

Remember, the data at the end is all that matters.

Truly sad.

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