Most of the activities I worked with in the history lessons involved analysing a primary source and determining authorship, bias, and the meaning of it in the greater context of history. Being able to analyse this type of source seemed to be the most important tool in the eyes of the teachers, as much of the national exams for history involves questions based off of these sources. Having witnessed so much time being dedicated to this single skill, the concern of teaching to the test came up in my head. At the end of Year 11, all students take national exams for each subject, and depending on both their expected grades and actual grades, these test scores are what will be considered by colleges and universities. In addition to the importance of these exams for the students, they are also used as a measuring tool for evaluating teachers similar to the way standardized tests are for teaching in America.
When discussing these exams with one of my head teachers, he explained how he believes that the English system of grading is unfair. Although it was created to get completely objective results, it forces Year 11 students to take the ten most important exams in their lives within a ten day period. At no other point in the education system will a student be forced to prepare and cram in the same manner, and those students who either have a learning disability or simply just take longer to learn and revise suffer the most. To a certain degree, these exams reward being able to write a lot of BS quickly rather than taking time to think of a thoughtful answer when stuck on a question.