Learning World: Are Exams Really Necessary?
Part 1 - National Obsession, China
The Gaokao, China's national university entrance exams, are one of the toughest examinations in the world. The Gaokao have become a national obsession. Every year millions of graduating Chinese students take this marathon university entrance exams that lasts nine hours over two days. The Gaokao results determine what university can a student attend or whether a student can attend college at all. Students are willing to go to any length to succeed in these exams. In 2012, students from Hubei were photographed collectively receiving intravenous drips to replace energy while studying for the Gaokao. The most dreaded section of this exam is believed to be the 800-character essay that is supposed to test a student's writing and thinking ability. However the brutal competition, high level of pressure and the intense preparation does not discourage students because once they jump this hurdle, a world of opportunities open up for them.
Part 2 - The Best Predictor, UK
The General Certificates of Secondary Education in the UK has been drawning strong criticism from students and students across the UK. All 16-year-old students take GCSE and two years later, they take other qualifying exams to get their A levels. GCSE results can affect their future. Students with low grades in the GCSE are denied admissions to most universities unless they are ready to take a second shot at the GCSE. Success at university, it seems, depends more on your results at 16 than 18.
Part 3 - OECD: Comparing Tests
Are Exams Really Worth It? Ready or not, stressed or not, final exams remain a fact of life. But are disappointing results really the death knell for career success? And are exams the best way of testing achievement anyway? Could we not just abolish them and chill out? OECD education analyst Eric Charbonnier, (educationdechifree.blog.lemonde.fr) notes that many countries copied the French "baccalaureate" model, created by Napoleon in 1808, by introducing final exams at the end of the secondary cycle. But some include continuous assessment and many different systems exist side by side, so is it still relevant to keep the baccalaureate as an international reference? The OECD experts think so.
There are 34 OECD member states : Germany, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Korea, Denmark, Spain, Estonia, United States, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Noway, New-Zealand, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey.
According to OECD reports on education, the cost to individuals and society of young people leaving school without a qualification keeps rising. The OECD calls for "all means" to be taken to "avoid the risk of a lost generation".
Across the 21 EU countries covered by the OECD report, an average of 75 per cent of the population aged 25-64 has at least an upper secondary education, compared to an OECD-wide average of 73 per cent.
The best-performing EU countries were Finland, Ireland, Portugal, Slovenia and the UK, where secondary-school graduation rates all equal or exceed 90 per cent.
Young women are more likely to complete upper secondary education than young men in all EU members of the OECD except Germany. Based on current graduation trends, 82 per cent of young people in the OECD today will complete upper secondary education, but those who fail to do so will face ever-greater challenges in entering and remaining in the job market.
For instance, unemployment rose much more dramatically during the crisis among those without upper secondary qualifications than it did among degree holders.
OECD researchers conclude that government budgets benefit from investment in education in the long term because the better-educated are less likely to need unemployment benefits or welfare assistance, and pay more taxes when employed.