Opinion: We need to stop fearing change in education

Pupils are sitting too many exams is a view likely to be reflected in the highly anticipated Hayward Report.

While a bold claim, the report is unlikely to go further and suggest an end to these yearly high-stakes examinations altogether. It is the type of middle-ground, unenterprising response we have come to expect of education leaders in this country. That said, any movement forward needs to be positively acknowledged.

Education is a celebration of enlightenment and curiosity. True education is less about what you put into a young person, and more about what you draw out of them. Yet our national qualifications seem only to function for the purpose of filling vessels with facts, rather than for the pursuit of wisdom and refinement of skills.

We live in a time where it is impossible for our todays to look anything other than profoundly different from our yesterdays. And yet, the system we use to teach our young people about the places around them, about society, technology, science and arts has remained entirely stagnant for decades and seems designed to protect the status quo, rather than challenging it.

Now is the time for a change – the time to refresh our approach to learning to make it relevant for the 21st century.

There is much value in the principles of Curriculum for Excellence and the Scottish Government has recognised the need for evolution. However, it is clear that a total overhaul of the assessment process is not going to happen anytime soon. For the record, I am not entirely opposed to the concept of a final exam. I, like most seasoned educators, have seen the benefits of asking pupils to reflect on their year’s work through the application of their knowledge. However, we must consider how this system is still relevant in an era when retention of knowledge is no longer a valid skill. When all information is available at the click of a button, then the skills we championed before become much less compatible with success.

In 2021, Lomond School started its journey to refresh its approach to education by adopting the International Baccalaureate (IB) – a globally- recognised programme which prepares pupils for modern careers. In addition to our existing SQA pathway, it is undertaken by almost two million students, in over 160 countries worldwide.

The concept is built upon the understanding that good grades aren’t enough, and places much more emphasis on coursework, including the requirement for a 4,000-word extended essay which reflects the process of producing a university dissertation.

Language development classes, work placements and an element of service in the local community are also incorporated to the IB in a bid to teach independent thinking, confidence and the ability to solve real life dilemmas.

Lomond School is currently only one of very few schools in Scotland authorised to deliver IB Diploma and Career-related programmes. We’re proud to be pathfinders in this new era of education, showing others that far from fearing change, it is the hour to embrace it.

***This article was written by Claire Chisholm, Academic Depute at Lomond School. It was published in the Herald on 20 June 2023 and can be found here – https://www.heraldscotland.com/business_hq/23582721.agenda-need-stop-fearing-change-education/***