“Whilst Adobe welcomes the move from the Government to support both educators and the students they teach in what are unprecedented times, claims made by the Education Secretary that exams are the best way of measuring performance fall wide of the mark. Exams should not be a proxy for school performance. The disproportionately high emphasis on exam results to inform rankings in league tables belongs to a long gone era and is hugely misaligned with the needs of industry and employers.
A statement made during a Select Committee hearing in September of this year that exam grades are “reliable to one grade either way” raises some stark concerns. Digging deeper into the statistics behind the statement reveals that on average, one exam grade in every four is wrong. With a very real possibility that two examiners may give different but appropriate marks to the same answer, which at times may fall on different sides of a grade boundary. It begs the question, why is the Government so intent on resisting increasing calls for reform of assessment in schools?
If memorising information and performing under pressure are the skills employers are looking for, then the current system makes sense. However they are not. Our own research reveals that employers place a high value on soft skills such as collaboration, creative problem solving and communication, but they are in desperate short supply of prospective job candidates that have these skills.
There are plenty of examples of alternative approaches to assessment around the world, none more so than Wales. The fresh approach the Welsh Government has chosen to take to measure student performance next summer is a positive move that will better support the development of relevant skills that students will need when entering the future workforce. The decision is part of the country’s efforts to re-focus its entire education system in favour of digital literacy. The top down, bottom up approach the Welsh Government has taken in refocussing the curriculum on the needs of industry, whilst simultaneously providing digital learning tools, training and resources to support teachers, means that schools are empowered to deliver on the Government’s ambitions without being overly reliant on exams.
Other governments, policymakers, stakeholders and education bodies need to pay close attention and look at how they can follow the lead of Wales. The long-term economic benefits of a generation of young people leaving education with the skills required by industry are potentially enormous and well-studied. As are the costs of inaction.”