The Unfair and Stressful Common Entrance Exams
The Common Entrance Exams controversies are twofold. First, it is an unfair system, as those who can afford tutoring will have a leg up on those who cannot. Secondly, these exams place great stress on the shoulders of young children, profoundly affecting their life at an early stage by adding stress and exam based anxiety.
Shifting the Focus Away from Maths and English to Different Styles of Testing
As a result of the ongoing critiques and debates, one way the Common Entrance Exams are attempting to be reformed is by shifting the focus away from Maths and English to different styles of testing depending on the school or consortium, to mitigate the criticism that these exams demand too much preparation outside of the school curriculum and favours those who have the means to for example pay for private tutoring. The argument is that Maths and English are part of the school curriculum and other styles of testing including a ‘cognitive test and interview’ or a more verbal and non-verbal based testing will therefore more accurately assess the child’s innate ability.
Can Exams ever be “Tutor Proof”?
However, in our many years of experience and in reality, no exam can claim to be tutor proof, as past exams can always be studied, and children with the means can afford to hire a private tutor once again to enhance their verbal and non-verbal reasoning and test-taking skills or take on extensive interview preparation tutoring. This means that the socially disadvantaged families may continue to not have access despite this change and students will still feel overwhelmed knowing there is a test of any kind that streamlines their education and life journey and therefore continue to be one step behind the ones who do. In other words, while this proposal for change is creating a lot of excitement for parents and students, changing the exam’s content does not appear to be a viable solution. If the concern is levelling the tutoring field to make it more accessible to students of lower income backgrounds, we have done just that since 5 years ago, by offering subsidised rates based on means testing, just as the Sutton Report recently suggested.
Detrimental Effects of Stress
In addition to this, another issue surrounding these exams is the amount of stress the students and their families face vis-à-vis these exams. A group of girls’ schools are abolishing their entrance exam, as they see the mental health stress these exams are causing to the children. What’s interesting is that their solution is similar to the reforms, where they believe the stress comes from preparing for the exams, and therefore are attempting to put in place an exam that cannot be prepared for. However, there is an issue with this as well. Decreasing preparation will not alleviate any stress, as it will remain a defining few hours of a child’s life. As education experts working closely with students aptitudes and anxieties, we can almost one hundred percent argue that no preparation does in no way lessen a students’ anxiety.
The Solution? Raising Education Standards
Instead of focusing on the exams of now seemingly various kinds depending on the schools, the solution should be in raising the overall standard of education. If the UK could set up an education system that allowed everyone to be quality educated, not only those who pass a selective examination, then not only would that lessen the pressure on the children and their families, but it would also allow the overall population to be less streamlined in a heavy exam based education system. This could eventually be a step towards lessening the social segregation, and raising the country’s overall population standards. An academic study across 27 richer countries concluded that the ones who had a system that selected their students on academic ability tended to have a more socially segregated school system. Therefore, a country’s ability to include every resident and lessen to social divide will not only see a generation of children less insecure and anxious about their future, but will also see an overall amelioration of its population, as each person will have the chance to achieve their highest potential.
For similar articles by our experts on controversies within the UK’s Education System see:
– UK Examination System Controversies
– Grammar School and Entrance Exams Debate
– GCSE Exams Reforms: What is Yet To Come