With thousands of school pupils getting their exam results last Tuesday, along with it came the usual platitudes from all and sundry who have been there and done that – myself included.
“It doesn’t really matter what you’ve got”, “help is at hand whatever the outcome”, that sort of thing, followed by media sources trotting out the same tried but tired photos/footage of school kids jumping for joy while waving a bit of paper around.
There’s absolutely no harm in that of course, and the advice that “it isn’t the end of the world” might not be of comfort to some youngster who expected more but got less, but it doesn’t make it any less true.
All the memories come flooding back every year, and for most school pupils – and their families – the exam process can be a fraught and anxious time.
For that reason, I’ve never liked one-off exams as an indicator, as you could be the most intelligent young person in the world yet freeze at the most inappropriate of times.
Many things can skew a person’s final grade, and of course it works both ways.
Someone who hasn’t done particularly well can effectively hit the jackpot with an exam paper that hits all the right notes, and they do better than expected.
That’s why I’ve always been a fan of continuous assessment.
By all means have an end-of-term exam that forces students to revise and go over the stuff they’ve learned to foster the right attitude. But I’ve never thought it right that, more often than not, a two-hour exam turns out to be the be all and end all.
I got pretty much what I wanted out of my exams in truth, but a case in point was when I did chemistry in first and second year. I consistently got grade 1 in tests and essays throughout the year, but when it came down to it I ended up getting a grade 4 overall due to one appalling afternoon’s work. Needless to say it put me off pursuing chemistry in S3 and S4 and I chose a different path.
So I’d be interested to hear what youngsters and their families who have gone through the raft of mixed emotions this week think about the whole exam process these days, and I’d also love to hear what employers think.
In a competitive environment, it must be nigh on impossible comparing like-for-like when they come across candidates – particularly when weighing up those who are just out of school/college/university to the likes of someone older, someone like me, who sat Standard Grades, Highers and CSYS certificates and can’t make head nor tail of the new system.
Indeed, when most millennials I’ve come across through work experience here seem shy, awkward and retiring when you ask them to – God forbid – ‘talk to someone’ on an actual phone, maybe a wee course on life skills wouldn’t go amiss as part of the learning process.