What is the purpose of high stakes summative assessment? Is it to rank students against each other? Is it a way to help maintain the intellectual pecking order? Is it to help people become better learners? Is it to feed league tables and the comparison of good and bad schools? Is it because it always has been?
Another great tension in teaching; how do we ensure that we are helping the learners in our charge to develop holistically as outstanding human beings whilst at the same time training them to pass and excel in the exams. It is a sad state of affairs that the measuring stick we use to judge the value of a person is their study score, their A-level results, the percentage or letter grade that defines them.
The system is flawed, but is so ingrained in our social norms that, no matter how hard we try, we cannot stop testing kids, we cannot stop organising them by age rather than stage, we cannot stop labelling and classifying them as if an A* were a golden ticket and a D an inevitable sentence to a second class citizenship (never mind those who do not even have the opportunity to enter the hunger games of formal education).
So while educational celebrities are telling teachers the system is broken and that we should undermine governmental dictat in order to have creative curricula, it strikes me that while high stakes assessment wags the learning dogs tail, genuine learning will always come second place to passing exams.
But like my favourite mythical hero Sisyphus, we must keep pushing that rock up that hill and surely we can get enough momentum to get it over the top.