The Machine Part Fallacy

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Right now, huge amounts of effort, airtime and emotion are being expended over how fair the exam results are for our children who have not been able to sit formal exams due to the disruption caused by our reactions to COVID.

We are obsessed by how this years results might compare to last years results, or set a precedent for next years.

So, why I wonder does it matter so much? In the end, there are a finite number of University places, Apprenticeships and job openings, and the system will flex to allocate places. There is a market, and the market works.

The fact that relative to other years the grades may be an anomaly is of minor importance at a practical level, other than for those operate the machine and would rather use algorithms than make decisions.

Based on what? An assessment of years of work determined by a short exam, or by teachers who know the pupil, their character and the standards required?

For the benefit of whom? The pupil, the employer, our society, or for those who would like to pretend they are in control?

By 2025 the fate of those who are getting results this week will have been only marginally affected by their exam results. By 2030, they will be largely irrelevant. Talent will out, and is not determined by the lag indicator of exams, but by the lead indicators of purpose, vision, character, determination and the support we offer them. People will perform in line with our trust and interest in them.

We are heading into a future none of us can predict, and for which exams based on an arbitrary and industrialised education process are horribly poor indicators. Like GDP, our exam systems measure everything except what’s really important.

We are not components. Lets not treat our students as though they are. They are unique individuals.

I know that’s more difficult to scale and regulate, but I can’t get too excited about an education system for which this is a priority.

Exams are useful indicators, but when it comes to selecting people I want to work with, I want to talk to students, and the teachers who know them, not bureaucrats.

One thought on “The Machine Part Fallacy

  1. The system of measuring the person was becoming less relevant to employers before covid. Many have algorithms that do not include qualification, place of origin and gender. They remove negative bias. And they give the employer a picture of the whole person relative to the requirement. This ‘no exam blip’ perhaps, is another trigger for systemic change. X


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