Pupils will learn more than how to pass tests

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PROFESSOR Andy Hargreaves’ assertion that Scotland’s education system will outperform our southern neighbours’ if the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) is implemented correctly (News, 29 September) is based on very sound judgment.

As he rightly points out, there is no education system in the world which heavily 
assesses its pupils and then proceeds to perform well on the global academic stage. There is an obvious reason for this. If you formally assess consistently, throughout the year, what you are effectively doing is teaching to the test. That is a dangerous strategy because what it does is limit the content being taught and, in addition, encourages teachers to be “safe” with their teaching.

I disagree with those in the education sector who criticise CfE as lacking rigour and being overly vague in terms of content. The true position is actually the complete reverse of this widespread reaction. CfE, when implemented effectively, to echo Professor Hargreaves’ words, is an opportunity to educate children in a more enlightened and natural way. It is incredibly content-rich whilst ensuring pupils have the necessary skills to apply their knowledge to different situations. Just because you are not assessing learning does not mean that learning is not taking place. It most certainly is and the learning should be engaging and contextualised, precisely because there is no end-of-week test.

Too often in the past, students have undertaken a flurry of revision with two weeks to go to the exams and often do enough to get the grades required. This results in qualifications but it does not result in learning that is embedded.

Regurgitating knowledge for the purposes of an exam is not rigorous; it is weak and lacking in longevity. Continuous assessment following ten years of non-assessment is a clever, joined-up methodology that ensures learning has a point beyond simply making the grade. If you look at countries which are doing well educationally, you will see that CfE is no more than a sound attempt to mirror what is working elsewhere.

Rod Grant, headmaster at Clifton Hall School, Edinburgh