Posted by: Gillian | April 16, 2013

Facts, exams and success

Just been alerted to this Suli Breeze YouTube clip: I Will Not Let An Exam Result Decide My Fate||Spoken Word: http://youtu.be/D-eVF_G_p-Y  .  I love the bit about remembering something five minutes after time is called: haven’t we all done that?

Exams do not define us.  However, just as attitude, intelligence and ability to adapt to new and emerging knowledge/techniques are essential for success so, too, is the ability to fit our own knowledge and behaviours into the existing culture.  Our knowledge and behaviours might take the existing culture to welcome new realities (think Apple founders) or they might be misunderstood, seen as irrelevant, ignored.  Many lifelong learners and, certainly, many returners to the world of formal education, take exams or seek formal accreditation of learning as a useful shortcut that explains to employers or other interested parties  (e.g. professional bodies, insurers) that they have certain skills.  Learning facts such as lists of kings and queens may have little obvious value when a Google search can find the information in milliseconds but training memory, developing reference points for one’s personal knowledge map and creating a base for further exploration are not easily dismissed as totally unimportant.  When learning Latin, I was unimpressed by the lessons in chucking boiling oil over ramparts which hardly seemed necessary skills for a girl in rural England; but half-remembered vocabulary and complex grammatical constructions have been of use more times in modern-day Europe than I can count whether ordering lunch in an Italian piazza or trying to work out which documents are important and which I can safely ignore for a while when working on projects.

There is much in education that is wrong and, yes, Richard Branson is a prime example of someone who decided formal education could not keep pace with his ambitions and he had the drive and intelligence to find effective ways to succeed wonderfully without (much of) it.  However, attitude and determination alone are rarely enough and in this connected world, interest groups and comment boards from Instagram to Slideshare and Pinterest are there to help us get started in building knowledge maps.  As we become more aware of what we know, sooner or later many decide that seeking a ‘badge’ or exam/qualification is a method of showing others the scope of one’s expertise.  Exam systems probably need to undergo massive change to fit the new world order but until then, refuse to be defined by grades but be comfortable in daring to join or rejoin the world where exams do open doors.

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