Teaching to the test is OK, says Gove

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We reproduce this post from Human Scale Education on Gove's evidence to the Education Select Committee. The original article is here.

“There is nothing wrong with teaching to the test,’ said education secretary Michael Gove to an early December meeting of the House of Commons Education Select Committee, as long as ‘the test is right.’

Gove’s argument for this challenge to orthodoxy was that people do not question the focus on ensuring that an airline pilot learns to pass a test of his skill, and ‘using mathematics in the modern world’ is similar to the ‘complex and demanding task of flying a plane’.

‘No-one says that we should cultivate the whole pilot,’ he went on, ‘rather than relying on rigid measurement of the skill. No one says that we should go for “holistic airlines”, in which the pilot, even though they may not have managed to clear the test, has nevertheless enjoyed discovering what it is like to fly a plane.’

Challenged by the committee on his decision to abolish and replace GCSEs, instead of reforming them, Gove said that ‘a clean break’ would signal ‘a higher degree of ambition overall for the education system, and was also part of his plan to ‘simplify the process of measurement’.

Citing ‘evidence from Ofqual that linear rather than modular assessment helps students either from poorer socio-economic backgrounds, or who have been poorer performers beforehand,’ he said that the new system would lead to more people achieving at a higher level.’ This was also because ‘the style of assessment that GCSEs have embodied, particularly recently, works against a synoptic understanding of subjects, and it also works against effective teaching and learning, not least the unitization or modularity of subjects, and first of all the adoption of coursework and then the move towards controlled assessments.’

The committee also challenged the education secretary on his assumption that changing the exam system would raise standards of teaching. He replied that he had this in hand, citing the opportunities now available for headteachers ‘to ensure that the best teachers are appropriately rewarded’ and the freedom provided for teachers ‘to enjoy a higher level of professional development, both through the growth of academy chains that exemplify the best practice in contemporary teaching, and through Ofsted’s increasing preoccupation with identifying and spreading those techniques and strategies that help to foster a higher level of student achievement’.

Education Secretary Michael Gove’s evidence to the Education Select Committee (HC 801 – 1) on reforming Key Stage 4 qualifications can be downloaded from here.
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