This summer, students have been greatly angered by a series of mistakes in their exam papers. These have made some exams unreasonably difficult or impossible to answer, putting the futures of many on the line.
Students come under huge pressure in this period, with some 18-year-olds taking up to 30 exams. Along with the chaos of constant government-ordered changes (sorry, “reforms”) to syllabuses, this pressure has become unbearable for many. Complaints have been made about exam papers asking questions on subjects that have never been covered and therefore could not be answered.
This isn’t the first time this has happened. Exam boards releasing half-baked papers is unfortunately a common occurrence in the UK. A-Level students sitting their French exam this year, offered by the exam board WJEC, were presented with sound files that didn’t match up to the questions. This was confirmed to be a recording mistake by the exam board.
GCSE English students sitting the OCR exam were faced with a similar issue as they were asked a question on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet that confused the two warring families (Montagues and Capulets), making it impossible for students to answer. This error in the paper was not picked up in quality checks.
OCR also failed to include a key formula in a biology paper. Elsewhere, a design technology exam had to be abandoned after the software kept crashing.
This is a clear example of profit coming before people. Privatised exam boards are keen to keep their costs as low as possible to maintain high levels of profit. And this often equates to cutting corners when it comes to quality control of examination papers and questions.
This is shown by the variety of examples above. The bosses of these companies are more than willing to gamble away our futures in their pursuit of profit. Capitalism and privatisation go hand-in-hand.
Whilst privatisation is certainly partially to blame here, it must be said that not all the UK’s exam boards are privately owned. Many exam boards - such as WJEC - are still under some form of state management.
But as well as pushing privatisation, capitalism also forces austerity measures to be aimed at state-run services, in order to prop up the profit-driven system.
The austerity measures brought in by the Tory government have therefore placed immense pressure on public services, which now lack the resources to provide effective quality control in state-run exam boards. Hence corners being cut - at the expense of students’ futures - even where exam papers are not produced for profit.
Simply put, putting profit above people is destroying our education system. This has to end. Fight capitalism - save our schools.