Thursday, 11 September 2008

How much would you make others suffer for the sake of what you believe?

As a head of department, I am the one accountable for the GCSE results we get. This summer's results weren't pretty reading. The headline A*-C pass rate for the school was 75%. In Modern Languages, it was 66%. However I cut the cake, I couldn't make it look any better.

I won't bore you with any more stats, but when I investigated the figures further, I found that what put us significantly behind nearly every other subject was the fact that we had opted to do a final writing exam rather than coursework.

I took that decision on the basis of what I thought (and still think) were sound educational principles, the two main ones being that: 1) It kicks into touch any possibility of me being tempted to give my students a "more generous level of support" than I should (in case you weren't sure, that's another way of saying cheating) and 2) It makes the students better linguists because they have to have more of their whits about them and a more masterful grasp of the language learnt because on exam day it's "do or die." No chance for a second draft!

Of course there are counter arguments like: 1) When everyone else is doing coursework, I am making my students look unfairly poor against the rest. 2) The average employer neither knows nor cares about my educational ideology; so long as the grades look good, the details behind the grades aren't important. In the light of the arguments above, the first of these two arguments makes me feel guilty, the second, plain frustrated.

So will I eat my words and go back to coursework? Time (and senior management) will soon tell, but I hope not, and here's why: Life is ultimately about a big day of reckoning before the King of the Universe. Any little rehearsals we get along the way like exams and Performance Management Reviews that help us feel, in a small way, the weight of that great account giving of ourselves on Judgement Day, then so much the better. It is to that day that I want everything in my life to point, not just when I preach on a Sunday, but also when I teach on a Monday.


Sean Green said...

I am really enjoying your ruminations - for what it is worth I think you shoudl go live and let us link to your blog!

dave bish said...

You can't control blog access! I broke rank and blogrolled you a week ago.

Richard Walker said...

Okay I give in. Go for it.