Gransnet forums


Mary Beard on 'exam factories'

(14 Posts)
thatbags Sun 26-Jun-16 08:23:49

Mary Beard is reported to have said that some schools are becoming such "exam factories" that kids don't know how to study for its own sake. I found this interesting as Minibags, fifteen, and just beginning her Highers year (exam equivalent to what I knew as Lower Sixth) in a Scottish school, started a campaign at her school to make the school enter kids for more national exams, not fewer. The problem was that otherwise some kids would leave school at sixteen with no national exam qualifications at all, which the kids felt was unfair. She and others also feel they could have done with some more exam practice.

I was also pleased to see that Mary Beard tells her students to "read a bloody book and then we'll talk about it"!

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Sun 26-Jun-16 08:54:53

"Read a bloody book". I love that.

thatbags Sun 26-Jun-16 08:58:45

Me too, cari.

WilmaKnickersfit Sun 26-Jun-16 09:45:02

I hated my school texts and it was years before I realised it was because the way I was taught English literature ruined them for me. We were virtually told what to write if we wanted to pass the exam. Apart from Shakespeare, I have reread all of the books I got at school and loved them.

PS I love Mary's hair in that photo!

M0nica Sun 26-Jun-16 20:21:04

Twenty years ago I went back to university for a year. I can remember one of our lecturers talking to us towards the end of the course. She said she had asked a first year group she taught how many books they had read cover to cover during their first year. Not a single one had read even one book cover to cover. She was amazed and so were we, a group of, mainly, early 20s postgrads.

That was 20 years ago. My DS, who is a university lecturer assures me things have got no better, possibly worse.

Some teachers can make their subjects very boring. Being a fully paid up member of the awkward squad I never let a teacher come between me and what I enjoyed doing, especially reading. Fortunately none of the set books for O and A level were books that featured in my cannon of books that made a really good read, several were of the 'read for the exam and never read again' variety. I have looked at a number of these since and confirmed that they really were as dull as I remembered.

Greyduster Mon 27-Jun-16 13:31:35

When my DS was doing his 'O' levels, they had to read C. P. Snow's 'The New Men'. I offered to read it with him (he was boarding at the time but we spoke once or twice a week). I did get to the end, but we both thought we would die of boredom! He has read it since, with a new perspective, and enjoyed it. I have picked it up again and jumped off the horse at the first fence! I have re-read very few of the books I read at school, except for Charles Reade's 'The Cloister and the Hearth', which I have always enjoyed.

Deedaa Wed 29-Jun-16 21:15:59

With the whole range of English Literature at our disposal why did we have to study Hardy's The Trumpet Major for O Levels? Such a dreary book! Can't quite remember what Shakespeare we did, possibly Henry IV part 1 because I've still got in depth knowledge of that one. Things were no better for DD, she got lumbered with Jude The Obscure and Seamus Heaney. Fortunately one of the English teachers gave us an extra reading list of books we would really like - To Sir With Love, Room At The Top, and so on.

M0nica Wed 29-Jun-16 21:35:32

We did 'Autobiography of a Supertramp' by W H Davies (he wrote the poem 'What is this life if full of care/ wehave no time to stand and stare').

The only thing I can say in its favour is that it is utterly forgetable. We did 'Twelfth Night' and, a real revelation to me, the poetry of Thomas Hardy. I have enjoyed his poetry ever since and his poem on Beany Cliff remains one of my all time favourites. So unlike his novels, of which I have yet to manage to read even one. Not even Far from the Madding Crowd, despite seeing, and enjoying the film.

PRINTMISS Thu 30-Jun-16 07:54:13

I enjoy reading, never had to actually study books though, but I remember my daughter, when she finally passed her A levels, saying, "Thank goodness, I can now read a book and enjoy it!"

tiggypiro Thu 30-Jun-16 11:02:52

I just like reading a book and enjoying it (or not - If I can't get past the first chapter or two it is abandoned as there are too many books to enjoy). Friends have asked if I would like to join a reading group but it seems too much like analysing the prescibed book and therefore I feel it would take the joy out of reading for the love of it. Hated doing that at school.

Jalima Thu 30-Jun-16 11:28:43

It is only since I have seen a televised version of some of the books we did for 'O' level that I have found them enjoyable.
'Hard Times' (Dickens), Barchester Towers (Trollope) etc

However, I always enjoyed Shakespeare because we had a teacher who encouraged us to act portions as part of our lessons, and we were taken to Stratford to see the plays we studied.

I think that we do have to set certain criteria for assessing a student's ability otherwise how would universities be able to offer places to the most suitable and able students?

I like Mary's TV programmes - do you think she will take me as a student?
My Latin is a bit rusty though

Jalima Thu 30-Jun-16 11:34:38

I agree with her about the league tables
They are all to do with the schools and not the pupils, although an assessment at 10-11 seems quite sensible to give their next schools some idea of ability, and exams at 15-16 and 17-18 for their future career/studies.

rubylady Fri 01-Jul-16 04:57:58

Jane Eyre, Romeo and Juliet and Thomas Hardy poems. I think I read the first page of Jane Eyre about 50 times as I had it with me on the field where the boys were playing cricket and watching them was far more enjoyable at 15 years old than reading Bronte. I did still pass though, even though my teacher told the whole class that she though it was a waste of time me doing my exam. I now wish I had gone and flaunted the certificate in her face, but I had too many manners at the time and wouldn't dare!

It is true though. My son is doing course work for his A levels. I said if that is the case, then anyone could have done the work if he is not sat in a controlled area with examiners watching. But is seems like it's the way these days. A bit strange if you ask me. But hey, as long as I get some peace in 78 days, it's ok by me. Not that I'm counting, you understand. grin

Jane10 Fri 01-Jul-16 08:25:14

I loved reading so much that any and every book was enjoyable. A level English was actually a pleasure for me. So it has continued. As an education 'junkie' I did course after course and really enjoyed the critical appraisal that became more and more important as the various courses increased in complexity. Finally I ran out of essays, projects and theses to write so I had to change horses and write my little novel. I know I'm an irritating swot btw!