It goes without saying that the global spread of COVID-19 has had a huge impact on everyone's lives. In the blink of an eye, society as we knew it shut down and the many institutions that held it together have had to make drastic changes to survive. By no means am I an expert on this crisis, but recently I've been thinking... are these social changes all bad?
My mum is an 11+ tutor, my sister sat her GCSEs last year, and I am on a gap year, waiting to attend university this September. So, as you can imagine, the current changes to our education system are a hot topic of conversation in my household at the moment. With the spread of COVID-19 came the complete shutdown of schools, colleges and universities in the UK and, as a result of this, we've seen huge changes to how GCSE and A-Level pupils will be graded this year. These changes are only temporary solutions, but I'm starting to wonder if they'll be able to alter the face of education in a post-COVID world.
Whilst I was at school, I was a big fan of the education system. I did all of my homework on time, I revised, and I never saw any flaws in the concept of exams. However, when I look back on the 14 years I spent in education, the weaknesses in our current system of exams and grades are more obvious to me. During my time in sixth form, I studied Sociology, Drama and English Literature and my predicted grades were A,B,B. When results day came, I was awarded the grades of A,B,C (the C being in English Literature.) These are amazing results and I am now so proud of them, but on the day I saw myself as a complete failure. In the run up to my exams, all of my English essays were being graded with B's and I received an A in my coursework. So, to come out of these 2 years with a C, when I knew I was capable of more, was frustrating and even cost me a place at university.
This year, however, students are unable to sit their exams. This means that teachers will have to take previous work into account to provide a grade which reflects the results that students were likely to achieve in their final exams. Whilst this sudden change must be irritating to the students who had been preparing for their assessments this year, I think this new system has the potential to change education for the better.
Currently, most subjects in the curriculum are centred entirely around end of year exams and, in subjects where it's still considered, coursework usually counts for very little. Year 11s and year 13s are put under immense amounts of pressure to receive the best grades possible in these tests, but I don't see how they can be expected to do this. To put it bluntly, most exams take a 'one-size-fits-all' approach and test memory as opposed to knowledge and skill. Some students thrive in the exam hall, whereas others do better during practical assessments or extended essays. It's not fair to paint everyone with the same brush. At least with this years alterations, students will be assessed holistically by someone who knows them and understands how they work. Surely this is better than having a rushed piece of work judged by a random examiner who is also trying to work their way through hundreds of other papers.
It's unlikely to happen, but I really believe that permanently implementing this new grading system would improve the mental well-being of students and the results of schools nationwide. Pupils would inevitably work harder in lessons if they knew that every piece of work they produced counted for something, and I really believe that the mental health of students would massively improve without the stress of having to memorise phrases and formulas that might appear on their final exams. If this arrangement works this year, I don't see why can't it be used to determine grades from now on.
Again, I'm no expert, but this is some food for thought!