Today my son brought home a letter which stated that SATs, the exams eleven-year-olds have been taking for some time, have been squashed. My daughter, who was bulldozed through these exams last year, declared the situation completely 'unfair'.
Teachers have been saying for years that the education board should not make test results the ideal by which a child's academic development is measured. Kids and teachers alike would cram weeks and weeks of focused work into getting ready for SATs. Many times other curricular activities had to be put on the back bench just so that students were made ready for these definitive exams when only eleven years old (my son would've still been ten, had he done it).
The entire school would become a giant exam builder, working only towards ensuring kids performed well at their SATs. After all, the productivity and value of both school and students were measured by the outcome of the exams. Teachers argued for years that at the age of eleven, students' advancement should be measured not by the results of arbitrary tests, but by an overall performance, a performance only their teacher who's been with them for almost a year is qualified to make.
Schooling is about education after all, they maintained, not about results of one exam administered by external bodies who knew nothing of the children's overall performance in and out of the classroom.
My daughter thought it unfair that her brother was spared the exams while she was required to do them last year. What she didn't realise was that the exams I did at eleven determined which high (secondary) school you went to. The higher the grade, the better and more prestigious the school. Each school was measured by a points system, and everyone, every where knew exactly which school had what. In an almost communist state, hiding behind a tattered veil of socialism, you weren't required to pay for schooling, so this manner of hierarchy was the next best thing for sifting so-called talent.
On your first day of high school, and indeed throughout the rest of your five/six years, you were judged and measured by the school you went to. The mere colour of your uniform suggested how bright or dull you were. Walking down the streets for a high school student was a testament to the power of your brain. Whether you were a late starter or not, the mistakes you made at eleven haunted you for the rest of your life because the only university in the country also judged you by the name of your high school.
The bottom line is that my son is happy and so are we. My daughters could handle the exams but he would be stressed to the very end of his tether. A dyslexic child in an examination room isn't a happy soul.
Anne Lyken-Garner is a published author, editor and freelance writer. Her specialities include relationships and confidence building. You can find her inspirational memoir here.