Too much testing


Alice Thompson, writing in The Times, thinks that standardized testing in schools should be abolished. Noting that English children are formally tested 70 times by the age of 16, she makes a very good case:

Our four-year-old must be assessed on everything from personal hygiene to knowing what a phonome is. By 7, my eldest son was expected to meet a series of “attainment targets" in 14 areas, from religious studies to citizenship as well as sitting his SATs. These range from “creating and performing dances using simple movement patterns, including those from different times and cultures", to realising “that family and friends should care for each other", to being able to “record calculations, using the symbols +, -, x , ÷ and = correctly"... By Key Stage Four, at the age of 14 to 16, the curriculum resembles a giant boa constrictor wrapped around schools, squeezing the life out of them.

Once you consider the lunacy of this whole system, it's really no wonder that Britain has slipped so far down the OECD's education rankings (from 3rd to 13th) since the 1980s. The astonishing degree of over-testing is indicative of a service that is not run in the interests of its customers – the pupils and their parents – but rather to serve the purpose of its political masters. As the old saying goes, "He who pays the piper calls the tune." In this instance, the government pays, the schools play their tune, and then the children have to suffer through it.

The solution is pretty simple. All schools should be independent and self-governing, free to set their own curricula, choose the exams their pupils will sit and pick the qualifications they will be entered for from the wide range of competing options already on the market. Ultimately, what matters is that schools are made accountable to parents, rather than to the state.