A recent BBC news article about how China plans to ban exams for six and seven-year-olds brings to light the stress and pressure placed on kids at such a young age. So when should children sit exams?
Who hasn’t spent an evening pacing the floors trying to cram everything into our kid’s heads before the big day wondering if it is all too much for our little kids?
We’ve been there as parents and as kids. The big question is; when should children sit exams? Is there a magic number? Is China on to something?
The truth is China is having a shake-up of its education system and the government is introducing a stream of new laws. Along with a ban on written exams for children in the first grade, there is also a ban on extra curriculum tutoring in the evenings and at weekends.
The government is encouraging families to spend more time together and take up other classes like music, sports and art. There is also a ban on homework for the same age group and a limited amount for other grades.
All sounds good in theory, doesn’t it?
Before we go any further, we all know that the UK and the US education systems are very different from China. However, it was only a couple of years ago that the UK was considering examinations for four-year-olds. So maybe we are more alike than we like to think?
The Benefits of Kids Sitting Exams
With our children taking so many exams there has to be a reason, right?
There are many benefits to examinations. They allow teachers to access each student individually and determine where they need to improve. We all know our teachers have a huge workload and in some schools, there can be as many as thirty (or more) in a class!
Exams can be a great tool as teachers don’t get much one on one time with students.
After the exam results teachers can adapt the curriculum or provide some extra work for students that are struggling or in need of a little extra support.
Many people also argue that they help improve memory and can make better students. Some students even enjoy exams and strive to beat their peers or their own scores. Studying for exams requires discipline and organisational skills as well.
Who else remembers those study timetables from high school?
The Downfalls of Children Sitting Exams
There are, however, many reasons why students should not sit exams, especially at a young age. It can put some students and families under extreme pressure. Students may feel they have to achieve high marks and feel like a failure if they don’t succeed.
Some educators also argue about what the students are learning when they are studying for their exams. It is believed that many only recite the answers and are not learning the theory. Wasn’t there a game show testing adults and their knowledge from primary school?
Many feel exams also prevent students from raising questions, learning for themselves or even having a deep understanding of what they are learning.
What are the alternatives for Children Sitting Exams?
There are other ways to test a student's knowledge and these are usually used in conjunction with exams throughout the school year. Essays and portfolios are just one way that teachers can figure out the level and strengths of a student.
This can also take the pressure off and give them the chance to think outside the box or find the answers for themselves. While doing their own research they can explore the topic further and in return retain more information.
It also removes a lot of stress and anxiety that children may feel while sitting exams. Who doesn’t want a less anxious child?
Project-based work may not be suitable for all, but it could be a great alternative for many schools. However, there is no one size fits all answer.
What’s Next for Students and Exams?
If you’ve skipped to the bottom to get the right answer you are going to be disappointed.
There is no right or wrong answer for when students should sit exams. However, it is always going to be a topic of hot debate. It is good to keep the conversation open and speak up if you feel exams are having a negative effect on your child.
Many teachers are sympathetic and may have some great techniques to help students overcome their fear and anxiety.
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