S02E03: Do we need exams in schools?

The Answers Project

07-02-2022 • 24 mins

In 2020 and 2021, millions of students around the world couldn't sit their exams because of COVID.  The pandemic has derailed exams everywhere, the UK cancelled exams and replaced them with teacher assessments and last summer in France, high school students couldn't sit the Baccalaureate exam (the final high school exam in France) for the first time since its introduction under Napoleon in 1888 - even the protests of May 1968 didn't prevent the exams from going ahead. The pandemic really has done its best to ruin the examination process but it seems like everyone's managed one way or another so, do we really need exams?

Marie Højlund Roesgaard, Associate professor of Japanese studies at the University of Copenhagen examines who the ‘we’ that wants exams is because it’s usually not the students. It seems exams are not necessarily a good indicator of what a person can do. China has recently announced a ban on written exams for younger children to take the pressure off which is being recognised as damaging to young people’s mental health.

Robert Winston, professor of science, society and emeritus professor of fertility studies at Imperial College in London discusses whether teaching people to pass exams is at the expense of other important academic skills while Anthony McClaran, Vice-Chancellor of St Mary's University defends the role of an external system of examination as essential to the quality and fairness of the UK university system.

Penny Van Bergen, Associate Professor in Educational Psychology in the Macquarie School of Education explains why learning things for ourselves - even when we have a world of knowledge on our phones - is an important reason to learn and assess the information that we get and understand when we are being misled.

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