Friday, 7 June 2013

Talking About my Education











I am in the midst of exams; currently bracketed on either side by those that have happened and those that are yet to come. For the last few months my tools have been pens, A3 paper, spider diagrams, blank word documents, crinkled texts, information booklets, powerpoint sheets, test essays and coffee. The last item on that list has propelled me through the use of all the others.
However, the coffee isn’t quite as bitter as my recognition that all this work counts for little. Two months (in fact, two years) of preparation is squeezed into two hours, or less, of frantic writing. In yesterday’s exams my word counts were lengthy while time for thought was short. A strange state of anti-climax hung in the aftermath. Was that it? Was that what I had been working for? A set of questions testing perhaps a quarter of the knowledge carefully accumulated and squirreled away?
Of course, the answer is that I have been working for the grades that will, I hope, ensure my university place. Those letters I’ll gain are the linchpins securing the next three years. But this only partly salves the frustration of these exams that prove little more than the capacity of one’s short-term memory, and the ability to deck out each paragraph with points to tick the right boxes.
I love education: the acquisition of knowledge; exploration; the improvement of my arguments; the thrill of wide learning about literature, philosophy and history (my three subjects). What I don’t love is the way that education is measured through a set of exams bearing little resemblance to the adult world of work. It’s hard to imagine an employee being asked to put together a long presentation without any notes, or a journalist to write an extensive review of a novel in just an hour whilst only using memorized quotes. The latter is a real sticking point. There is an undoubted pleasure in knowing a poem or monologue off by heart, but I have friends required to remember lines from nine different texts in order to satisfy the ‘closed book’ criteria of their exams. Prose and verse is reduced to easily reproduced phrases and references.  Independent thought does not have a place. Rehearsed formulas do.
I'm one of the fortunate ones who can mould themselves to the system. I can follow the ins and outs of a mark scheme, even if it feels inhibiting. But many bright and capable students are failed either by the indifference of their school (because success is partly a reflection of the calibre of teachers), or by the rigid expectations of assessment. The student body of Britain encompasses hugely varying levels of skill, learning style, interest, capacity, creativity and specialist areas, but the only choice we have when it comes to further education is which subjects and qualifications to study. My choice, A-Levels are a one-size-fits-all qualification.
These may be considered small gripes though when one thinks of those such as the extraordinary Malala Yousafzai. Here in the UK, education is expected, mandatory even, rather than denied. My journey to sixth form and near completion of my A-Levels was merely a slog rather than potentially dangerous or life threatening. I both acknowledge and am grateful for the fact that I come from a family environment and live in a society that enables learning and academic opportunity. But there are still serious flaws within the English education system, set to get worse now Gove has his hands on it. Politicians never have to directly experience the consequences of their policies. It is pupils and students who do. Thus, to significantly twist some lyrics from The Who, perhaps it’s time that we all start, “talking about our education.” 

The dress worn here, a lovely gift from my fairy godmother (origin – Monsoon), has been helping to brighten up revision sessions in the sunshine. Just before these photos were taken I was hunched over notes on Wittgenstein & Aquinas, whilst my parents read the paper. It was fun to have an interlude where I could splash through the water and ‘swim’ in the field of grass.  

17 comments:

Emalina said...

I've been thinking of you, wondering how your exams were going, and am most impressed you've had time to write this clever, considered piece as well as all the revision! Hang in there, it will all be worth it Roz.

You're very wise to be giving yourself breaks to play in the sunshine when you can. These photos of you in the lovely Monsoon dress are utterly enchanting.

Sophia said...

I really enjoyed hearing your thoughts on this, as having (almost)completed my GCSEs I've been thinking along the same lines. Especially when you spend hours revising your least favourite subject to ensure a good grade, only to throw away all the flash cards/notes and forget all you've learned in a few months! It all seems so pointless...

Orange Cat said...

I'd love to wear your monsoon dress right now .The monsoons just started here (India) such a relief !

I think it's lovely you took the time to click photos during a tense period.You'll probably always remember doing that. I always seemed to have random fun ideas during my exams which i had no time to put to practice.

orange cat

jamunstreet.blogspot.com

Anupriya DG said...

Education is indeed an important tool for shaping a person's life & future and it should be imparted in such a way that we don't waste any of the knowledge gained or time spent in gaining it.

On another note, that's an absolutely beautiful dress.....you really look like you are 'swimming' in the greens...! :)

Closet Fashionista said...

That dress is so beautiful! And I know what you mean about exams. In real life you always have a way to look up what you need to know - whether it is books or the internet - and while it is better to just know it from memory there is just far too much to know for that to be expected of us
http://www.closet-fashionista.com

Vix said...

I've been thinking of you and like Emmalina, and so impressed you've found time to write such a fascinating piece.
That dress is a beauty on you.
Sending you lots of love and luck. xxx

Leila Adams said...

I agree with you about the English education system totally! Gove seems to be making everything worse; sure, there might be a need to increase the 'standard', but why be all spontaneous with it? That's only going to jepardise some students' likeliness of getting a pass of a C in some subjects. Eurgh!

Anyway, your outfit is yet again beautiful! Can I have your hair, please? xx

myfashionlabyrinth.blogspot.co.uk

Longuette said...

I love this gorgeous dress!!!!


Love, Ylenia from Longuette

Bella Q said...

I HOPE YOU ACE YOUR EXAMS.

Jane George said...

i have been reading your posts for the 20 on 40+ series...it's been wonderful! and came over to say so and got greeted with this beauty in an amazing dress....thank you. much love sent from the flight platform xxx

Melanie said...

I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the education system. I am not a fan of letter or number-grading - I would hope that passion and curiosity would propel true discovery and knowledge attainment. And it's also frustrating that some colleges here even offer courses for telemarketers as a work prerequisite, not that it's an easy job. Lots of food for thought. Good luck on the rest of your exams. Your Monsoon dress clearly has magical powers.

Francesca Cassidy said...

Bravo, just...bravo. Couldn't agree with you more. I'm afraid it doesn't get MUCH better at university, though there is more room for free thought and opinion. I think people should bring back the old oral Tripos exams, where you were expected to have a half-hour-long conversation with an examiner about whatever the subject was. Anyway! Lovely post and good luck with all your exams.

Rajrang said...

I really enjoy your blog.

All the best in your future.

FASHION TALES said...

Beautiful printed dress Roz! I must say, that I did not know I appreciated my parents being strict, and academic driven until I went off to university. I also think education is very important ... "improving my arguments," yes, very true :-) as well as exploration. Best of luck with your exams. x/Madison

Sacramento Amate said...

I found that my caree and education helped a lot to be free, even if I realised I didn´t like the work I had to do in order to get enough money to live.For that reason, I have encourage my daughters to get the university education they wanted while growing winds to create and walk their own path.
Much love and admiration always, my dearest Rosalind.

shipshapeandbristolfashion said...

I'm so disappointed that the new 'GCSEs' will be doing away with most coursework - some people just aren't cut out for exams and basing two years worth of knowledge on one two hour test seems ludicrous to me. Good luck with the rest of your exams x

The Foolish Aesthete said...

What a lovely interlude to exam revision. Your fairy godmother must be a water nymph judging from your lovely dress!

Ah, but your post gets to one of my gripes too about "true intelligence" in this world. I have worked with people who are supposedly educated but found their lack of independent & critical thought rather appalling! Especially in this day and age of internet research, I see so much "research" directly lifting from the web. The worst part is, they are often erroneous (i.e. taken not from primary and respected sources) and show lack of depth - akin to your quickly memorized lines to regurgitate in an exam essay. Better to have someone research with an open book and have a thorough understanding of the subject than to disseminate misinformation.

The wonderful thing is that we, your readers, know that you will be joining this adult world at a completely different level. Your output is dense with substance. I wish there were a million more Rosalinds around! Best of luck on your A levels. -- J xxx