Right. No offence here, Lizzy, but thank Christ, Buddha, Allah or whoever that that’s finally over. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not setting up shop with the republican camp here: the Royal Family are a good source of revenue and much less imposing than a President would be. There is just something about slightly tipsy middle-aged women with bingo wings and pseudo-racist flag bashing which brings out the most tedious side of British culture.
Plus, on a studenty level, the entire weekend provided a sickening opportunity for the Twittersphere to indulge in a pitiful lament about the sorry state of the economy, and how the money spent on the jubilee celebrations could have funded another 3,000 Greggs in East Yorkshire.
Irritating? Yes. Pointless? Undoubtedly. But worst of all is the fact that the majority of us don’t need another painful reminder of how utterly – if you’ll excuse my French – fucked our collective job prospects are. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or in Westwood, you’ll know that we’re in a double-dip recession. No one has any money; so while everyone owes everyone, no one can pay.
Even from our closeted and bubbled world of university academia this prospect already seems more intimidating than a skinhead Ukrainian fan at the European Championships. And yet we laugh it away because we’re currently safe, cut-off for the moment from the real world by our bohemian lifestyle, a steady income courtesy of Student Finance and a Facebook group dedicated entirely to the Warwick duck populace.
All of which brings me somewhat maladroitly onto the subject of this week’s missive: examinations. As this final term advances – and the majority of students sit some form of timed-assessment – the wall between this world and George Osborne’s shudders and then goes full Berliner. Everyone suddenly remembers that this collective sojourn actually counts and ill-concealed panic erupts.
The situation is made worse in that, while the threat and stress of exams is nothing new, the stakes are increasing year-on-year. You and I are paying around £3,000 a year during a financial slump to further our job prospects. Imagine the pressure, four years from now, on a student who has accumulated effectively £27-36,000 of debt and is told to sit down and prove their intelligence – and by extension employability – based upon the outcome of a two hour exam. Suicide rates are going to skyrocket.
It’s a twofold issue.
In the good old days, when tuition was free, university was as much about the process of study as bettering oneself. Now though, thanks to various different governments, the focus has shifted onto value – as students we’re morphing increasingly into consumers rather than producers. Whether you see the monetisation of higher education as a good thing or not is secondary to the matter that is has become increasingly influenced by market forces.
Whilst in isolation this is a change which unis might be seen as adapting to, in context there’s evidently a gap between method and intention. On the one hand tertiary education is still held up as a bastion of learning, even though the other is simultaneously illustrating the process as an investment in a future career.
The evident contradictions here are enacted at their most fundamental level in end of year exams, which are caught between the inadequacy of properly representing full academic capabilities and the failure to provide a genuine marker of general employability.
Think about it, no exam – irrespective of thoroughness – will be able to validate a year or more of study. Similarly, you can gibber on about ‘transferable skills’ all you like, but my scant knowledge of Byronic heroes isn’t going to help me land a job with a fancy London PR company.
As a system it makes no sense whatsoever. You’d create a more rational approach in questioning my left bollock. So why does it persist? Simple, tests are useful because they are comparatively low-maintenance and easy to quantify. This may have worked when there was only one purpose of assessment, but it evidently isn’t up to scratch when sitting on the fence between two.
Either the examination process needs to change and expand to fulfil both the presently heralded benefits of a uni education or the establishment needs to reprioritise the subject and properly quantify it; for example, through continuous assessment in the form of performance monitoring, increased coursework and vivas.
In short then, exams are like the monarchy – anachronistic, daft, pointless and just asking to be replaced by something better.[related_posts_by_tax columns="4" posts_per_page="4" format="thumbnails" image_size="medium" exclude_terms="34573"]