What is the point of education?

It's exam time in the UK - but are written exams the best way to test our students, asks student blogger Orli West?

June 13, 2018 12:16

I often think myself lucky that I know (or think I know) where I want to end up in life. Since doing two weeks' work experience at Norwood in year 10, I fell in love with the idea of being part of the development of children, and in particular, children who have special needs. Most people in my life have heard me discuss at length how much I have loved working at Norwood for the past six years, and how happy it makes me to see even the slightest ounce of progress from the children and young people I am privileged enough to work with.

Because of this (along with some slight tricks of fate), I now study Education at Birmingham University with a dream of becoming a primary school teacher for pupils with additional needs.

Now, with that out of the way, it is also important that I note that there are elements of the education system that I absolutely loathe. As most of you reading this will know, it is currently exam season in England. In the last few weeks, everyone from 15 to (roughly) 21 has been taking  GCSEs, A-levels, and finals. We live in a society that is built on grades and statistics and paperwork. I have seen the huge stigma my sister Millie faces because she does BTEC Media, which is seen as a ‘cop-out’ or somehow makes her less intelligent. Of course, this is total rubbish, as all it means is that her skills are better placed in something vocational, rather than her grades being dependent on her sitting in a random room for two hours doing an arbitrary exam paper. 

Don’t worry; this isn’t just going to be an article about me lamenting how stupid exams are because, as my brother told me when writing this article, it isn’t fair to critique a concept when we don’t have a better solution. However, I do think that the pressure and importance of exams in our society does beg a question; is it worth it?

I am, and have always been, a very large believer in the fact that your grades are not entirely dependent on your intelligence, or on your effort. It is written in Ethics of the Fathers “who is wise? One who learns from every man… Who is strong? One who overpowers his inclinations… Who is rich? One who is satisfied with his lot.” This is a quote that I hugely identify with, as it shows that there is more to people than meets the eye. A wise person is not just someone who does well in exams, or goes to a good university, or has a good job. Although in our society that may be part of it, to me a wise person is someone who is kind and giving, someone who does their best for themselves and others and picks themselves back up when they fall down.  

Or, as Martin Luther King Jr said; "The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education." 


Orli West is in her second year at Birmingham University where she is studying Education.

Read the revious post

June 13, 2018 12:16

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive