Credits. The entire education system revolves around them. Everyone knows what they are and what they mean. They are the most important part of high school. We spend three years accumulating as many credits as we can. Why do we put so much weight on a few credits?
Anyone who has attended tertiary education will most likely tell you that credits mean nothing. But throughout high school, we treat them like hot commodities. Everyone who has them wants more, and everyone who doesn’t, needs them. They are the key to success, or so we are told. And that’s true to some extent.
Across the world, exams are the default method of understanding academic achievement. Every year, students across the country sit NCEA externals. It’s probably the most stressful part of every student’s high school experience. And it’s all done in the name of preparing us for life. But what do these exams achieve? Most of the time we’re far too stressed to achieve much, we’re far too tired, and we’re far too full of coffee. How is this ever going to relate to real life? Sure, life is stressful sometimes, but most jobs don’t involve giving employees exams.
If we want an accurate picture of academic achievement, shouldn’t we ask our teachers? Arguably, they are the person who would know best. A teacher spends an entire year with their students and knows exactly how they are doing academically, socially, and knows their work ethic. Your teacher will also have a broader understanding of your learning, as opposed to an exam that occurs on a set date, regardless of how you are that day.
In level 1, I was told to remember as much of the periodic table as possible and then the table of ions. I got to the exam, recited as much as possible and then proceeded to forget as much as possible. The same applied in media studies where I had to remember directors’ names, dates and characters’ names. We learn to sit for exams and to memorise information. How is that preparing us for life?
Memory is a really key factor in life, and an excellent memory will help hugely. But so will countless other skills. How can we justify having an education system that revolves around memorising as much as possible? We’re learning how to pass an external exam as opposed to learning how to enter the workforce or how to live in the 21st century or how to research – arguably a far more valuable life skill. Almost everyone has a phone in their back pocket ready to answer any of the world’s questions, so why do I need to remember what lithium’s atomic weight is?
Knowing how to pass an exam is undoubtedly an exceptional skill. It helped me many times last year. But it isn’t a life skill. By the time I finish in the education system, I’ll probably never have to lay eyes on an exam again. But for now, exams are a necessity for my education. We’re wasting the time and talent of countless teachers, assessors, students, markers and printers. NCEA exams aren’t worth the plastic wrapping in which they’re stored.