There has been a lot of debate in the mainstream media , twitter (e.g. #govelevels), the blogosphere and the UK Parliament over the last few days about the value of educational qualifications.
This varied from an extreme of ‘bring back the exams of old that we can trust and we know will really push young people’ to the other of ‘exams aren’t important what matters is the quality of our teachers or inspirational leadership in our schools.’
These views don’t necessary have political affiliations but can be swayed by party allegiances, especially if your side is on the back foot and you are in the midst of a slanging match in the House of Commons.
However, the benefits of qualifications are really just a diversion from the real issues in education, especially at post16 level.
This is one of agreeing as local communities about how we are going to ensure that our youth will get the jobs that they badly need. Part of this is of course linked to the type of exams they sit and the content that they cover, which in turn is linked to the expertise of their teachers. But to my mind increasingly the bigger issue is providing them with the basic confidence to acquit themselves well at employment interviews or during internships or periods of useful work experience (assuming that these are available to them, decreasingly so as the recession bites more).
Confidence can be linked to a range of facts grouped under 3 headings.
Firstly, it is about your own sense of achievement and how you value what you have done so far in life, of which exams are only a small part.
Secondly, it is about how others who matter to you measure you as a contributor or team player and how you react to this.
Lastly, but by no means least, it is how the two above factors are combined and worked upon by other influences, such as the level of economic opportunity in your household, family or neighbourhood, or the aspirations set out for you by a host of role models whether experienced closely or remotely by you, or the cultural background that you may have inherited.
So this why the value of qualifications is an irrelevance.
But of course, try telling a national politician that and try keeping them from wishing to impose sometimes deliberately simplified educational views on the whole of their electorate.
Might as well ask them all to trial GCSE Mathematics exams in public with a TV camera following every answer …… now that would be a real outcome!