In recent weeks, various examination boards have been criticised for setting impossible questions in two exams and a multiple choice question with a choice of only incorrect answers in a third. Additionally, one board issued a marking scheme which was incorrect. Later, further errors were discovered in yet more exams: questions were posed with insufficient information to calculate the answer, incorrect units of measurement were quoted and questions were even set from previous papers which the examining board claimed weren’t there in the initial print run and must have crept in on a defective photocopier. Perhaps the dog ate the questions which should have been printed.
When I was at school, teachers always drummed into students the importance of checking one’s own work – presumably this is one of the many lessons which have been lost to ‘efficiency’ cuts or the exam boards would be making less mistakes.
Whilst I can see that these events give students the best possible preparation for real life – dealing with incompetence and unfairness are skills which they will undoubtedly need throughout their lives and careers – it strikes me that perhaps the decision to take exams out of the control of the teaching establishment and put them into the hands of private companies may have been a mistake which ought now to be reversed. Education ought to be run by the educators – people who know what they are doing and who genuinely care – it should not be tinkered with by politicians (who are making it up as they go and are more interested in political point scoring) or exploited for profit by those with no interest in the futures of our children.
The government is now calling for an enquiry as to how all these errors occurred and the exam boards will be investigating. Whether or not they’ll be able to correctly identify the answer remains to be seen.