Understanding UK education and exam system:
As the UK education system becomes ever increasingly competitive, the focus on excelling has reached unprecedented levels. Entering competitive schools is all about exams, exams, exam. For example, your child’s entrance exam at the age of 11 or 13 could allow them to attend an independent school, and potentially help their academic journey leading to greater lifelong success.
Tested and Examined and Retested
Students are tested and examined at every key stage of the UK education system. From SATs, to GCSEs, and A levels, society is continuously assessing its students. The pressure this places on the shoulders of the children and their parents has led to some heated discussions by educators, politicians and the general population about whether the UK education system is well structured and genuinely allowing students to grow and develop to the best of their ability.
When the Exam Pressures are High
When the pressure of achieving a good mark is so high, we cannot be surprised to hear that many school curriculums, both in the state and private sectors, are teaching to the test, warns Amanda Spielman, the head of Ofsted (the UK’s Office for Standards in Education) in a BBC article. The classes are focused on how to pass an exam rather than develop the students’ ability to reason and think critically and creatively. We must start asking ourselves what is the price our society will pay for placing so much emphasis on exams, promoting a task oriented system rather than a dynamic and open learning environment.
The UK’s education system has set up a long string of exams, where pupils enter their first one in year 6 (end of Primary) with the SATs. The SATs’ aim is to test government-funded primary schools in order to assess the academic level of pupils against the programmes of study of the National Curriculum.
Another exam that happens the same year for many students is the 11+ Common Entrance Exam. This exam is used by many of UK’s top prep and independent senior schools, which in turn will help the students be well prepared for the GCSEs, which take place at the end of Secondary school, determining whether the students will go on to attend further education and then potentially higher education, or finish school and go into the working world. Further education will either be a two-year preparation for their Alevels, which will allow them to go to university, or alternatively vocational qualifications or apprenticeship.
Streamlined Students and No Easy Solutions
As a result, every student will be gradually streamlined as they go along their academic journey. At each stage, they seem to be categorised as either “academic types” or “non-academic types”, which can have profound effects on their lives. Because of the continuous pressure, this system encourages teachers to teach to the test, and move students even further away from a creative and dynamic development. Over the past few years, critical voices have been emerging, pushing for a fundamental change in the system. However, there is no easy solution as of yet. Exams are still a fundamental part of our education system, and students must figure out the best way to rise above the exam system by doing well in them and saving time for creative learning.
For now, the rise of private tuition in London is the clearest indicator that students must find their own ways to excel in an academic system that is highly focused on exams and in a state of flux. Stay tuned for more of our blogs on how to rise above the system!
Contact us at 02030867311 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions on how we can best tutor your child and help them thrive in skills, grades and confidence.