The news that high school final exams will undergo a shift in focus has been met, largely, with derision. Instead of what we think of as a traditional exam structure, high school final exams will not have a negative impact, no matter given, on the students’ grades. The reason people seem to hate this idea, in my humble former education student opinion, is rooted in the “get off my lawn” philosophy. Below, I have provided a synopsis of said disposition.
The “get off my lawn” philosophy is rooted in the idea that things us graduated students, had to go through should be experienced by the next generation. It doesn’t matter that these systems are flawed, even oppressive, cry the crowd, “We had to go through all of that horse excrement, so should they!” seems to be the consensus.
So, having walked uphill both ways to this university and having gotten, however begrudgingly, off of the group’s lawn, here is my case for why this shift in final exam policy is a good thing.
Firstly, exams will still exist. All that’s happening is that the anxiety factor that made students needlessly fail has been rightfully removed. Now, will some students blow their final exams because their impact on their grade is negligible? Probably, but that doesn’t mean that these students haven’t learned anything all semester. Exams are the worst way to evaluate a student’s progress. Regurgitating facts, figures, and using whatever mindreading skills you have in order to translate whatever you think your teacher wants you to write, doesn’t do you any good. The argument that devaluing final exams and (gasp!) weighting a student’s mark more towards a semester’s worth of work rather than three hours in an airless box, will not prepare them for university, leans on the idea that a university education is a requirement for success in life, which is incredibly arguable – in certain fields – at the present moment.
Secondly, exams, particularly comprehensive province-wide ones, can be incredibly oppressive. Many American states prescribe an exam that students must pass in order to graduate from high school. Problem is, these exams (big surprise) are geared towards the privileged. If you are living below the poverty line, your school (because of its repeated failures in state-wide tests) is chronically underfunded, and you quite simply don’t have the same life experiences that this test is asking you to work through, how can you be expected to do well? That’s a vast gap that no standardized test can ever hope to bridge.
Lastly, tests that penalize students at the end of the course do not benefit from them. In the current educational environment, one where failing a student is becoming harder and harder, why should remnants of the old system – exams meant, implicitly, to punish those that don’t have the same life experience as other students – still exist? Yes, students need to be evaluated; yes, these evaluations should, in some way, be some sort of test; but a comprehensive exam, rooted in a hundred-odd years of outdated pedagogy should be soundly uprooted. How a student performed has largely been determined by the end of the term, so there is no point in sabotaging their successes at the conclusion of the year.