FAQ: What about exams?


This is probably the second most-asked question (after “Is it even legal?”). I’ve mentioned it here and there, I think, but I thought I’d post about it in a little more detail.

One of the problems I have with school is how much of the focus is on getting children to pass tests or exams. The purpose of education, in my opinion, isn’t passing exams. The purpose of education is education. The joy of learning.

And children are keen to learn. Joe, who has never been to school, asks me all the time if he can learn about various things that have caught his interest. He asked the other day if he could learn to write like me – i.e. on the computer – and since then he’s been going on Reading Eggs because I think it’ll be easier if he learns to read first. He’s happy to go on Reading Eggs and do the ‘tests’ on there (although he doesn’t think of them as tests) because they will help him get what he wants – to learn to read and then to learn to write.

On the bus the other day, I heard two teenage boys talking. One said, “You should do Music, it’s piss easy!” The other said he’s doing Geography because it’s “a better GCSE”. First one said, “If I get an A* for Music, how can that not be better than a B for Geography?” Neither mentioned whether or not they enjoyed Music or Geography.

If at some point in the future my children need to pass certain exams to enable them to do a certain job, then they can study the relevant curriculum and pass the relevant exams. But the exams would be a means to an end, not the end itself.

See also this brilliant post by Ross Mountney: The indecency of grades


5 responses to “FAQ: What about exams?

  1. Great post Keris. And what a conversation! But then I bet that’s exactly how most decisions about ‘choosing’ their exams are made – for strategic reasons rather than education! Which just goes to show how much real lack of choice there is in schools, not to mention the timetable constraints! Not only are home educated children free to make proper choices, the intelligence that informs them is completely different too! Thanks for the mention – happy to have inspired. x.

  2. Ooh, I really want to leave a massively tangential comment about the intricacies of reading and writing and the relationship between them which I find fascinating. But I won’t, and I’ll wait for you to write that one in due course. 😉

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