Saturday, 15 October 2016

A teacher's rebellion

It is a common belief that young people are best suited to question set ideas, to challenge the status quo, to long for the revolution that will bring everything down and build the world from scratch. Maybe so.

However, I feel that no revolution can compare to the informed one, the revolution of those who know where they come from and what it is they are rebelling against.

Do I feel rebellious? I certainly do.

As a teacher of a few decades, having spent long hours with children of 7 to 17, I feel that almost all  the exams for obtaining  language qualifications do injustice to the different talents and abilities of students.

Think, for example, of all the research into language acquisition, of all the different methods which will allow people of different intelligences to approach a foreign language in a way that will help them assimilate structures and words. On the other hand, think of all the exam materials available for preparing successful candidates.

Now try to figure how much fun and how much real learning exam requirements enable. Am I the only one to think that nobody will be asked to write a film review in real life unless they pursue a career as film critics?

Am I the only one to think that completing two writing tasks of about 300 words each in 1 ½ hours is pointless and does not really allow the candidate to focus on either. Nor does it give the examiner a better understanding of the candidate’s proficiency in the language than just one would.

Am I alone in getting frustrated when two totally mismatched candidates try to interact in a speaking test and only succeed in ruining each other’s chances? What is the point in interaction if one has not made sure that the two candidates fulfil some basic requirements? And what is wrong with individuals examined separately?

When I work with dyslexic people and try to catch up with them trying out so many different answers in their heads—sometimes aloud too-- so they can get to the right one, I am at a loss. I couldn’t process half of this information so fast. Is some extra time thrown to them for accomplishing the tasks going to even give the examiner an inkling of the effort and the thinking process at work?

Please do not ask me what is to be done and should we do away with exams. I only know this one thing; I have reached this point in my teaching career where I feel an irresistible urge to rebel, to join ranks with my students.

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