Why shouldn’t teenagers be able to re-sit their exams?

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Monday 18th June 2012

When I’m not reviewing books, writing novels or blogging, I have a day job as an education journalist. My children have never been keen on me being clued up about key stage 3, phonics and schemes of work, but they’ve had to put up with it. And it’s endlessly fascinating. One week I’m writing about apprenticeships, the next I’m interviewing the head master of Eton (one of the most impressive heads I’ve ever met).

But with A levels still in full swing, I opened The Times this morning to read that education secretary Michael Gove is planning to divide them into two courses, each lasting a year and ending with a set of exams in the summer term. He is convinced that dropping the system of modules would halve the number of exams pupils take in the sixth form and cut the culture of multiple re-sits.

Mr Gove clearly hates the fact that students are currently able to re-sit their A level modules several times in order to improve their grades. But I don’t understand why. I thought that education was supposed to be all about lifelong learning, about striving to improve and enhance our knowledge.

So why shouldn’t students learn from their exam mistakes and try again? Teenagers who don’t find exams easy but keep trying to better their grades should be encouraged. Not slapped down and told “tough luck, you’ve had your chance. You’re not having another go.”

8 comments so far

  • That’s crazy. They keep fiddling with the system and, imo, bring it down each time. Imagine only having one shot at your driving test? Come to think of it, there’d be a lot less cars on the road -:)

  • Interesting that this idea seems to be coming from on high. Teen’s school have been entering Yr 10s for their GCSE Maths after a concentrated one year course – this left time in Yr 11 to re-sit if necessary, but generally everyone was getting good grades. When Ofsted came in a couple of months ago, they decided this wasn’t a good idea and that in future Maths must be taught over 2 years. Why fix something that’s not broken?

  • Maybe if the schools didn’t keep pushing the kids to enter before they were ready they wouldn’t need to take so many exams. A levels are the most stressful time and it’s a crazy system at the moment. Why do all kids have to take general studies? Very few places count it towards a place on a course – most kids hate it and it’s yet another exam.

  • Completely agree – it’s ridiculous to suggest that everyone can get it right first time. And as if A levels weren’t hard enough already!

  • I agree, Maryom. From what I’ve seen A levels are quite tough already. My daughter’s just finished her second year at university and she reckons A levels prepared her very well for higher education.

  • That’s a very good point about general studies, Nell. When universities don’t recognise it as being a valuable subject why do students have to take it? Hope Michael Gove looks at that, rather than other stuff.

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