Exam success makes children happy, argues Michael Gove

 
Michael Gove Michael Gove will back rigorous testing in schools as humans are hard wired to seek out challenges

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Exam success boosts children's happiness and encourages them to learn, according to the education secretary Michael Gove.

In a speech to the Independent Academies Association conference on Wednesday Mr Gove is expected to back rigorous testing in England's schools.

He will say that easy exams are worse than no exams at all.

"Exams matter because motivation matters. Humans are hard-wired to seek out challenges," he will argue.

"Our self-belief grows as we clear challenges we once thought beyond us. If we know tests are rigorous and they require application to pass, then the experience of clearing a hurdle we once considered too high spurs us on to further endeavours and deeper learning."

'Pleasurable rush'

In the speech, the minister is expected to refer to the work of the American cognitive scientist Daniel T Willingham whom he cites as one of his biggest influences.

Quoting from Mr Willingham's book Why Students Don't Like School Mr Gove says he agrees that students are motivated to learn if they enjoy "the pleasurable rush that comes from successful thought".

Mr Gove is set to say this is what exam success provides: "There is no feeling of satisfaction as deep or sustained as knowing we have succeeded through hard work at a task which is the upper end, or just beyond, our normal or expected level of competence.

"Exams show those who have not mastered certain skills or absorbed specific knowledge what more they need to practise and which areas they need to work on," Mr Gove will say.

Start Quote

The education secretary needs to stop his obsession with engineering an education system which only the few will navigate”

End Quote Christine Blowe NUT

"For all these reasons, exams pitched at a level which all can easily pass are worse than no exams at all. Unless there is stretch in the specification, and application is required to succeed, there will be no motivation, no satisfaction and no support for those who need it."

He is due to argue that it is vital for children to learn facts and commit them to memory: "Memorising scales or times tables or verse, so that we can play, recall or recite automatically gives us this mental equipment to perform more advanced functions and display greater creativity."

Mr Gove is also set to tell the London conference that "examinations are a key weapon of progressives everywhere", claiming that external tests are fairer than teacher assessment: "I am, as it happens, a huge fan of teacher assessment, properly designed and administered but teacher assessment alone cannot bring the benefits proper external testing can secure."

Mr Gove is also expected to argue that school league tables have helped to overcome prejudice against schools in disadvantaged areas.

"In the past, before the clarifying honesty of league tables, schools were judged on hearsay and prejudice. Schools with challenging intakes in disadvantaged communities were written off as sink schools - but many of them were performing well, better than other schools with more privileged intakes which were coasting."

Commenting on the speech the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers Christine Blower said: "Michael Gove appears to have little grasp of what is already in the curriculum.

"Learning times tables and facts is obviously a part of the school day. The assertion that GCSEs are far too easy will certainly not be recognised by either parents or pupils.

"The education secretary needs to stop his obsession with engineering an education system which only the few will navigate and look at recognising all achievement not just that of his schooldays."

Labour's Stephen Twigg, the shadow education secretary, said: "Michael Gove's exams fiasco mean GCSE students are angry, not happy, because their ambitions have been held back. His old fashioned approach to exams means that students will be unprepared for the rigours of the modern economy."

 

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  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 291.

    To have good exam results you need to have: good teachers, good exam boards and good national policies not to mention a strategy for dealing with both those who do well and those who fail. I see no evidence that all these are in place.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 290.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 289.

    Gove is wrong in his direction with education. School in general should be following a path thats relevant to the real world and learning shakespeare latin or whatever is certainly not doing this country any favours. Going round in circles is the exact description for this country and sometime soon we'll be back to skills shortages and having to open doors again to migrants. Will we ever learn?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 288.

    Michael Gove used to be a trade unionist (Google it if you don't believe me), which is kind of ironic, wouldn't you say ?

  • Comment number 287.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 286.

    Firstly this:- "Exams show those who have not mastered certain skills or absorbed specific knowledge what more they need to practise and which areas they need to work on," - is rubbish. Why? Because you never get told which bit of the exam you failed on that's why. Just that you failed.

    Yes qualifications can be important, but not as important as good experience.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 285.

    "There is only way to make sure he becomes a Shadow Education Minister and that is not to vote Tory at the next election in May 2015 and hope it is not too late."

    Yeh, that career politician and Oxbridge PPE graduate Stephen Twigg, he'll sort it! Labour, Labour, Labour!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 284.

    HerrKartoffelkopf@194
    So happily caught
    With Gove
    On horns of our dilemma

    Whether to address 'narrow reality', the choice we 'allow ourselves': Tory v Labour, Gove v Twigg, as if so different

    Or to address 'belonging' for all: teachers & pupils able to share hope, with genuine love of 'subjects' as aspects of a wholesome reality, for good application, not means to 'get above' and exploit others

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 283.

    Here he goes again with making life-changing decisions based on his ideological stance towards education rather than evidence based research by experts in the field. As a teacher we do not know what the field of play will be in 1 years time, let alone 5 or 10, so how can we plan? Whatever changes this politician makes, PLEASE let they stay in place for AT LEAST 10 years so we know what to aim for!

  • Comment number 282.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 281.

    269. Ppuj
    Its interesting that my son and daughter both went to schools that tested weekly in every subject and both are high achievers.
    ___________
    Which is a very good case for course assessment rather than one-off exams. On the basis you normally support the current Government, is that what you meant?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 280.

    267. Tim
    6 MINUTES AGO
    Oh here we go again - Roll on May 5th 2015!


    I think you'll find that's May 7th 2015 - But I fully agree with your sentiment. That date cannot come too soon for me either. With a bit of luck Gove will be gone well before then.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 279.

    OK, so passing exams can make people happy, at least for a while, and may empower them for life. However, how do exams make those that fail any happier? What kind of nonsense argument is it that says, 'exams make children happy'? Of course those who did well will think how good exams are!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 278.

    Quote from The Brittas Empire:- "He thinks he is the oil in the machine, but he is a bag of grit." This could apply to Gove AND to his Scottish counterpart, Russell.
    We need experienced teachers at the helm.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 277.

    262.J Brum
    ..I genuinely think that Michael Gove is the biggest enemy this country faces. It staggers me that such a dangerous man is given a place in British Politics!

    There is only way to make sure he becomes a Shadow Education Minister and that is not to vote Tory at the next election in May 2015 and hope it is not too late.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 276.

    I don't think will be happier if they don't get the rgades that they want, but they will be happier if having attained a good grade that it is recognised as such by parents and employers alike saying it wasn't an easy test. The 96.2% pass rate doesn't look very convincing and a 25% A*,A grade rate also appears to devalue the grading structure. Just keep it simple A* becomes A and go down the scale

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 275.

    How students perform in exams depends not only on their intelligence, but on whether their family is supportive of their education and their health on the day of the exam (headaches affect performance). Performance on a single exam day and memory tests do not provide a true picture of intelligence. Exams can produce massive anxiety/misery and make failures of millions of UK kids.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 274.

    At the end of the day , it's all rather academic, as there are virtually no jobs for any of our youngsters to apply for anyway! Basically our youngsters are learning ( and being made to pass even harder exams ) for nothing !

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 273.

    He may well be right. Easy exams ARE probably worse than no exams.

    Not because of the the child's "happiness" but because it devalues the worth of the certificate. But then again fiddling with the system ever year probably does the same too!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 272.

    270.Paul

    "Hopefully the 10 years leading up to GCSEs has told the student that - the exam is the test to see if they've been paying any attention."

    If it takes ten years to discover they havent been paying attention then the exams are meaningless anyway...

 

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