It would be easy to be shocked by The Daily Telegraph’s revelations about exam boards – but the truth is that Britain’s examination system has been heading for a crash for years. The culprit? The process that saw it transformed from a national treasure to a profit-driven industry. Today, examining is not an extension of teaching and learning, but a career in itself – one that has, on occasion, meant acting as little more than an arm of government.
The first mistake was to divorce the examination system from its end-users. In the past, academic exam boards were not only named after leading universities, but had a significant number of dons actually marking scripts. Today, the boards’ management structures hardly have any connection with the universities. Control of the content and structure of the examination system needs to be placed firmly in the hands of universities – and, in the case of vocational training, of employers – so they can ensure that students possess the knowledge and skills their bosses or lecturers require, not what is cheapest, most convenient or most politically correct.