‘Maths exams are too hard and must be rewritten,’ regulator says.

(Artimaths-exam-PAcle from The Independent, 21 May 2015)

I was quite surprised this week to read an article in the education section of a couple of leading UK newspapers stating that OFQUAL (the education watchdog) has called for new GCSE Maths exam papers to be rewritten because they are ‘too hard’.

My reading of this article coincides with the completion of a book I have been reading recently called “How Children Succeed” by Paul Tough. In his book, Tough highlights several anecdotes or studies of children, mainly from poorer areas, who have succeeded regardless of all the odds which were stacked against them. The reason for their success? Passion, self-belief, grit.

In my other readings recently, about the PISA successes of Asian countries such as Singapore and South Korea, I’ve found that the resilience of children is almost taken for granted – children are capable of more than we think. And children are pushed to limits higher than we would even dream of in the UK – because there is an expectation that chidren can do it.

So, this beggars the question: Why do we (in the UK, for example) not believe that our children can do this? Why do we not give them a chance, an opportunity to grow and prove themselves? Why do we set the bar so low, and change the exams to make them easier?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we should exclude children and make them feel they are not worthy, because they find it hard to perform at the higher standards. I’ve been particularly intrigued by the Finnish education system, where teachers go out of their way to help kids feel included – and these kids flourish at the higher standards, too.

Instil in students the passion, self-belief and grit to succeed, and surely we can get our kids to do these hard exams too….?

Our children are capable of far more than we think. Let’s give them a chance!

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