The United Kingdom has a long and proud history of culture and academic excellence, for which reason so many come to the UK from abroad to study. For over two decades, Scion Mastery, formerly Angloslav Education, has helped nurture the next generation as a provider of academic career planning, guardianship and holistic tutoring. Writing for The Leaders Council, director Inga Neaves reflects on the use of exams as a standard measure of a student’s ability, and how the Covid-19 pandemic presents UK leaders with an opportunity to make radical changes and re-evaluate the fundamental systems and institutions for the benefit of future generations.
One of the influential factors of a child’s upbringing is the country’s overall socioeconomic status. It dictates the expectations of a child’s life, the quality of life, and their general moral principles. In turn, parents’ levels of national pride and social responsibility influence their child’s preliminary attitude to their environment. Countries compete with each other to be seen as providing the best possible life for their citizens. Yet antithetical, in the West, there is a rapidly spreading culture of condemning competitiveness in children. Ambition is seen as a vulgar quality to have, often being mocked as a ‘social climber’ or a ‘teacher’s pet’. More prizes are given out of pity, rather than to reward achievements. There is an unrealistic expectation for everyone to equally ‘win’, so no feelings are hurt, instead of setting equal conditions and a clear set of rules. This is not conducive to the raising of the nation’s future leaders.
We have all seen how radically fast the advancement of technology changes the course of our lives, yet it takes years for the government to update the curriculum and implement those changes. The demand for cognitive power is increasing globally. Whoever wins the technological race, wins the economic race. Big Data plus AI plus superior computing process equals superior decision-making ability. The USA, China and Russia are heavily investing in science and technology. Russia has a long-standing tradition of producing world-class scientists and mathematicians due to the country’s unique educational methods. Meanwhile, China has eight times more young people studying STEM subjects than the USA. These future graduates from all over the world will be responsible for researching, creating, and implementing the technology of the future. Entries to STEM subjects in the UK in 2019 have increased by 26.2 per cent for both boys and girls, we seem to be moving in the right path to prepare a future generation for working in a more tech advanced world. It is important that students are encouraged or made mandatory to learn about the basics of computer science and Internet Ethics from a young age to re-establish the UK's leading position on the world map. The government must decide now what it will mean to be British in 2040. Either Britain can stay the same and fall behind the rest of the world, or steps must be taken towards reforming education to better prepare school leavers to compete in the global arena.
Intelligence on its own relates little to the success of a person’s life. To create success, intelligence must be cultivated with high ambition and determination. A successful person’s position in their field is highly dependent on their depth of knowledge, adaptability, agreeability, stress tolerance, and moral integrity. If someone is good in all the above areas, every country would happily open their borders to such an individual. They would make a desirable colleague, boss, or even spouse!
There has long been a debate about whether exams are a good measure for a student’s ability in a certain subject while we can argue that using a student’s grade point average, similar to an American marking system, is a better indication of a student’s true potential. Developmental years are crucial for a person’s future and it starts within the family and the academic environment. Academic institutions are providers of subject-specific knowledge and general moral compass that should have a clear structure with rules, consequences and rewards.
Due to the pandemic, no academic institution was able to examine students as usual. Without this experience of working under exam conditions, students are missing many opportunities to learn crucial information about themselves, such as the difference between their expectations and reality. When a student is being tested on all the knowledge that they acquired throughout their academic course, they need to be prepared for a range of topics to arise and to be able to link the topics together to solve complex problems under strict time conditions. With exams in 2021 being cancelled, another cohort of students will carry their delusions of grandeur with them onto the next stage of education and into working life. There is no question if reality will catch up with them or not. In our opinion, it is better to face the truth as early as possible, while you are young, strong, energetic and flexible to change.
In-person exams generally mean that plagiarism is less likely to occur. Without equal exam conditions, students could easily buy essays or have others sit exams for them. This is deplorable, for moral integrity is valued among associates, colleagues, and family. Diligence is a learned trait, whereas plagiarism is often seen as a cunning way to achieve results with little effort. However, in the long run, it is a sure-fire path to self-doubt and self-disdain.
Nevertheless, there are some advantages to not having exams. Firstly, the final grades of students reflect the quality of their work throughout the year. With the usual exams, many students have a bad habit of starting to revise only a short time before the exam. They instead rely on short-term memory and good luck. Such a turn of events in 2020 hopefully taught students the need to consistently make an effort with their homework and class engagement.
Last year, we all learned what happens when the leader decides to act last minute, procrastinating on their duties until it can no longer be avoided. Secondly, in 2020 students learned the importance of building a good working rapport with teachers, as teachers are now the ones in charge of their grades! Communication skills, good manners, and the ability to deliver messages clearly are qualities which are highly sought-after following their education.
The pandemic is offering a chance for the government to make radical changes and to re-evaluate the fundamental systems and institutions for the greater good of future generations. The UK can establish a system where we have both GPA and exams to provide universities and employees with a better understanding of a potential candidate.
Throughout the year, standardised testing would offer an important perspective of a student and show their capability to perform consistently under pressure, their ability to deliver the correct information promptly and think on their feet. One of the most important skills students will also learn is active planning and preparation. We will be able to remove students who managed to cram information for their exams and perform well under pressure, and instead instil a healthy work ethic into their daily lives.
To conclude, every single person who resides in Britain should remember how much this country has achieved since the Second World War. Our current standard of living is only possible due to the clear vision of the leaders of the time and the unrelenting ambition of the British public. The future global performance of the UK will depend on the competence of our children. Therefore, in our opinion, establishing a system to include GPA and Exams are necessary to develop the skills that will be invaluable in the workplace of tomorrow. If Britain wants to maintain its status as a world leader, future generations who will carry Britain’s legacy forward must be continually reminded to put Churchill’s words into practice and aim for “Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival”.