Teachers in the U.S. have been known to voice strong opinions about standardized testing, but the Brits appear to be taking things to a new level. In a speech this week at the annual conference of the UK’s Association of Teachers and Lecturers, Mary Bousted, the union’s secretary general, charged that testing in schools not only detracts from learning, it’s also contributing to an increase in mental illness among students. “Children suffer stress and anxiety as the test loom and the rise in [British] children’s mental health problems cannot be divorced from their status as the most tested in the world,” she said.
Bousted argued that schools today should be concentrating on teaching critical thinking and “life skills” rather than “rote learning” of factual information. “Is the world going to collapse if [students] don’t know ‘To Be, or Not to Be?,’” she asked. “Our national curriculum should be more focused on the development of life skills and ways of working than whether or not we teach the Battle of Hastings.” (Yeah, we needed a refresher on that one, too.)
The ATL’s conference is turning out to be an eventful gathering, incidentally. In a separate session, a government education official was jeered after suggesting that class sizes of 38 students could be “manageable” and that he’d seen math classes with as many as 70 students that were “perfectly acceptable.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.