Debate: Does focus on exams stifle creativity? // Blog for Live Magazine

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As announced last week, the exam-based English Baccalaureate is set to replace GCSEs. But how will this change affect today’s young people? Is an exam-based approach to education a good idea?

Community story-writing website surveyed 4000 12-18 year olds for their responses to the proposed changes. The overall verdict was, ‘must try harder’.

More than two-thirds (69%) of the UK school children polled said they believe that the pressure to pass exams stifles their creativity, with 63% further dismissing suggestions that education has been ‘dumbed down’. The survey also found that the widely held perception that non-academic students are lazy and obsessed by computer games is wrong, with 58% of those asked feeling that they could be pushed harder at school.

While formal, exam-based learning may be beneficial to some, it has a detrimental effect on the productivity of others. Zac Evans, an A-Level student who’s just about to study English at Cambridge, agrees.

“Universities, in the future, will have an expectation of an English baccalaureate as the minimum grade, and I think that’s wrong because people function in different ways – some can’t work well under exam conditions. Many are very capable to do exams, but it’s negligence to think that coursework doesn’t benefit others,” he says.

“It’s unfair – people are being cut out of education. And those who can’t do exams, in the future, might not be able to get what they want or deserve.”

For educators across the country who are grappling with the changes being proposed, there is some good news: despite grumbling on a Monday morning when the alarm goes off, 83% of kids enjoy going to school and 67% of students credited their teachers as being in touch with their needs. So while the broader education system itself might be too rigid, students are clearly prepared to back their teachers.

Commenting on the survey’s results, Per Larson, CEO of, said “My hope is that decision-makers will sit up and take note as the message ringing out loud and clear is that the return to exam-only assessment is out-of-tune with today’s school children and will only serve to hamper creativity even more. It’s the digital era but we’re returning to a Dickensian system of education.”

The age old perception that kids are irresponsible, unapproachable, and uninterested is changing. “We need to stop bashing teenagers like they are the new bankers and thinking all they want to do is loiter on facebook all day. It’s doing them a huge disservice,” concludes Per.

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