Latest News

What's been happening at Cathedral Grammar this week?

View all the latest news >


Examinations – getting real

Examinations are a much-maligned educational tool these days in some circles; it is fashionable to write them off as out-moded, unfair and demoralising.

Indeed, like most things in life, an examination is not without issues and is not entirely fair.  The anxiety that some people feel when sitting an exam can lead to results which do not truly reflect their ability level, and an examination can never be long enough (thankfully) to cover all the learning in a year. Not everyone produces his/her best in an examination setting and examinations do not measure such things as attitude nor team skills.

Nonetheless, it is fascinating to witness, year in, year out, just how well examinations match in-class results.  In the pluses and losses of marks that is an examination, with the exception of lower extremes, the end result usually is a reasonably accurate indication of ability, skills and knowledge; pretty much as good as it gets in objectively measuring human endeavour.

That is not to say that examinations are wonderful; there are many other forms of evaluation which we should and do use including observation, self-evaluation, peer evaluation and crtiteria-based forms of assessment.

But examinations are efficient, objective and acceptably fair.

Of course, a result is the least that an examination offers the sitter.  The greatest benefit of an examination, on top of the opportunity for self-reflection, is the creation of expectation that real learning and mastery is required of the learner.  In much of what passes for “modern” education, there is little real expectation on the learner – or even on the teacher – for real learning.  Participation appears to be the greatest element, with specific learning a hoped-for side effect.  While the expectation should naturally be that the teaching is excellent, too often the role of the learner in learning is overlooked.

When learners face up to having to expose their real internalised skills and new knowledge in a test situation where guidance from without is not available, they come to a really important life-skills moment: the point of responsibility for their actions, in this case, their learning.

As we mature into self-actualising individuals, we learn over repeated experiences of facing up to examinations, even rather small ones, that we need to engage with content and skills and the teaching/learning process, and with the revision process as well.  It is a realisation which helps makes sense of the whole enterprise.

That is why we continue to have examinations from Year 4 in our Boys’ and Girls’ Schools; just small ones in reality upon which we look only for confirmation of more sohisticated assessments. As one parent said to me recently, her children saw examinations as really quite fun and happily looked forward to them knowing that they provided an opportunity to reflect their knowledge base.

If children have such attitudes at Year 4 & 5, imagine the confidence that they will take into more important examinations.

Our Location

To arrange a visit please contact the School:

Street Address

The Cathedral Grammar School
26 Park Terrace
Christchurch 8013

Phone: (03) 365 0385
Fax: (03) 365 0384

Postal Address

The Cathedral Grammar School
PO Box 2244
Christchurch 8140