There is a conspiracy to deny children the vital lesson of failure

Parents, teachers and ministers are all engaged in a deception over our exam system says the former chief inspector of schools

Sitting at the back of the classroom, I cringed. A pupil had given an answer that betrayed his complete misunderstanding of the question. His teacher beamed. “Well done, Johnny,” she said, “that is fantastic.”

Why, I asked her afterwards, had she not corrected his mistake? She looked at me as if I were mad. “If I’d told him that he’d got it wrong he would have been humiliated in front of the rest of the class. It would have been a dreadful blow to his self-esteem.” With a frosty glare she left the room.

Have you looked at your children’s exercise books recently? The odds are that the teacher’s comments will all be in green ink. Red ink these days is thought to be threatening and confrontational. Green is calm and reassuring and encouraging. If you read the comments, you will probably find that they are pretty reassuring and encouraging, too. The work may not be very good, but the teacher appears to have found it inspirational.

One of my Sunday Times readers wrote in recently to ask why her son’s headmaster was so reluctant to tell parents whether children had passed or failed internal school examinations. His line was that school tests were meant to diagnose weaknesses rather than to give a clear view of a pupil’s grasp of the subject. He wanted to help his pupils do better and he was worried that honesty might demotivate pupils who were not achieving very much. Did I, she asked, think this was a very sensible idea? I replied that I did not.

Continuem a ler…