Professor Gordon Stobart of University College London suggested that exams were not the most effective way to assess students who would leave school at 16 and expressed concern about the “sheer volume” of exams. tests in Scottish schools.
Professor Stobart, who wrote a report for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on reviews of the Scottish Excellence Program, said he was shocked by the complex Scottish system.
Its report compared the Scottish system to those of nine other places in the world, including England, Wales, Ireland, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Norway and concluded that it was “losing ground. its strength “in the last years because the emphasis could be put on” teaching to the test “.
Testifying before the MSPs, Professor Stobart said he was in favor of exams for students aimed at going to college but suggested reforms for 15 and 16-year-olds.
“I think the biggest surprise was probably the volume of exams that high school students take, the complexity of National 5, Highers and Advanced Highers, and the fact that you can have multiple levels of education in the small schools with different students where there are slightly different programs, ”he said.
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Prof Stobart added: “I think we can record progress and we don’t necessarily need a national exam to do it – there may be other ways.
“I’m talking about a mixed economy where we need exams and I think, certainly for the university, I haven’t tried to say we don’t need [them for] Superiors and Advanced Superiors.
“It’s more at National 5, if there are other ways to record progress and to record what students have done with their school experience.”
Professor Stobart cited the International Baccalaureate and said: “You could say that it is an assessment and it contains exams, but it also contains other aspects, the essay, the theory of knowledge, the personal projects.
“That sort of thing can be built into it, so it doesn’t have to be a narrow preparation for the exams which I think can get quite didactic at times -” you’re here to learn this, this and that “- rather than to engage with students on the development of ideas, their profile and their community service which, in Canada, is part of the International Baccalaureate.
Asked about a possible reform of the school leaving age, he suggested that the Scottish school system was already doing it “almost naturally”, with 88% of pupils now in education beyond the age of 16.
“This is a dramatic increase from 20 years ago, when most students left at 16 – and that was the rationale for exams at 16 as well.”
He added: “Early leavers often have very little to show in terms of test scores and the like.
“That would be my experience and my reading of the Scottish statistics on this.
“Maybe my suggestion of some sort of portfolio, of some sort of diploma, could take a lot more into account and give a richer picture – even if they go off – of what they did at the school, what were their strengths?
“I wouldn’t see the graduation exams that students often fail as a good way to end their formal studies.”
Scottish Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville last month said exams could be reformed but not scrapped.
She announced that work to possibly reform the exams should start in the new year and said: “The question of assessment and qualifications generates strong and sometimes contradictory opinions.
“However, I am convinced that, given the experience and opinions expressed over the past two years, the time has come to signal that the Scottish Government supports the reform of national qualifications and assessment.”
Ms Somervillle added: “We are not talking about finishing the exams.
“What we’re talking about is having a discussion about how best to see what a learner achieves and recognize that achievement. “