How New Zealand Had Lockdowns Without Exam Fiascos | Richard Wells | 4 Min Read

Exams are expensive and stressful. You would assume it would be human nature to put all effort into avoiding them but there always seems to be an urge by some people, who have sat them in the past and know they won’t in the future, to inflict the same experience on the next generation. In January, after much speculation and delay, the UK conceded to 2021 being the second year in a row where no end of year exams would take place in schools. Sadly for the UK, the Conservative government has spent a decade increasing the value of summative exams and reducing or removing all other forms of assessment. This has left the country, like others, wrestling with the challenge of inventing an alternative set of measures within an education sector no longer equipped to handle them.

Over the next decade, the students who gained access to university during the pandemic might be challenged on their worthiness to have achieved a place, but what if they perform essentially the same as regular cohorts? Many are asking if this will be the catalyst to challenge the expenditure on exams, in time, money, and stress. But others note that the private sector’s lobbying power to continue the promotion of their exam products in the US and UK will have administrations quickly return to dehumanizing and inequitable exams. This lobbying also includes the equally large private exam-support industry for those students lucky enough to afford these extra preparation products. One such support company called EasyA even saw the promotion opportunity in producing placards for students demonstrating against the UK’s exam algorithmic disaster last year. Surely the name “EasyA” itself challenges the value of exams in the first place.

Excellent leadership in New Zealand, where I live, has meant we have not felt the full pain of COVID-19, and life has been almost normal. But if we had to react to COVID, educational leadership in NZ over the last 20 years would have avoided assessment issues as well. I will explain the two key aspects to NZ assessment and why they contribute to more learning, less stress, and flexibility to cope with world pandemics. 

  1. Leveling up

New Zealand assesses all students from ages 5 to 18 against ‘Curriculum levels’ in eight key disciplines. Teachers are asked to make these levels visible and to engage with learners as they work…

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Richard Wells

Richard Wells is a world-recognized educator, author and blogger on future education trends. He has presented around the world and has been rated in the top 50 world influencers for educational technology use. He currently works in school leadership and is passionate about moving schools forward to better represent the needs of the 21st century. Richard is an EdTech influencer who founded EduWells, a top 10 education blog. He is the author of A Learner's Paradise, a book in which he explains how education can operate without classrooms, lessons, subjects, and tests. Richard proudly started his career with a degree in Fine Art from Manchester in England. He worked in IT before contracting to work in schools, digitalizing their workflows in the late 1990s. He became an educator in 2003.