Politics Of Education And Testing

For the longest time, education was limited to the rich elite. When education was finally made available to all, it came with a big price: to accommodate the sheer number of students, and get them used to a life of working in factories (public schooling became widespread towards the end of the Industrial Revolution), school systems were regulated and standardized; the theory was that someone who studied in an elite school should not be more or less educated than someone who went to a state funded school. Here’s a look at why this system failed and is failing:

Diversity cannot be “Curbed”

The initial practice of making students all learn the same way – often by rote – and sit in long, orderly rows came from wanting to instil a ‘factory’ environment early in the children’s minds. Unfortunately, the holdover is still present. But children are diverse and each has ability unique to themselves. Standards like the selective high school practice tests are great as a measure for their skill until you realize that some students transcend the standards altogether; their brains work completely differently. A dyslexic student will probably fail standardized reading tests but that doesn’t make him or her any less intelligent.

Prioritizing STEM Skills
Science, Technology, Engineering and Math are all important skills – and they all benefit industries. There has historically been a prioritizing of these subjects and skills in schools than the arts and humanities subjects, which are seen as ‘soft’ options. The truth is that the latter helps children develop emotionally and socially, in ways that are difficult to (and probably not meant to be) measure. However, there is a NAPLAN numeracy test for students in schools while no one thinks of measuring their historical or political knowledge. Why is ‘History’ a choice and ‘Math’ an essential?

Testing Knowledge; Not Skill

While many countries around the globe are now changing this, schools used to stick to teaching knowledge and not skill because first, it wasn’t logistically possible and second, it simply was easier. Experts called for change but systems refused to change until the advent of the internet. Knowledge was accessible to everyone now and it became pointless teaching students to memorize facts. School systems are slowly starting to teach their children more practical skills by engaging in holistic education. Children are learning how to calculate budgets, make curtains for a house, plan a meal, code software etc. which are skills necessary to live in the modern world.Education is not simple. It’s a seething mass of politics and failed history. Remember that the next time you criticize or praise.