Schools are becoming ‘exam factories’ that fail to prepare pupils for the workplace, business leaders warn

Institute of Directors says knowledge alone is ‘no longer enough’

Schools are being turned into “exam factories” that fail to prepare children for a future workplace in which the ability to recall information will become less and less important, business leaders have warned.

A report from the Institute of Directors, published today, states that formal knowledge alone is “no longer enough to prepare workers for the dramatic socio-economic demands of the digital age”.

“In the past, education was about imparting knowledge,” it says. “Today, it is about providing students with the intelligence and skills to navigate an increasingly uncertain and volatile employment market.”

‘Outdated system’

But the modern exam system is “essentially the same” as the system introduced in 1858, which aimed to rank school leavers on their ability to recall information and apply standard methods, the report notes.

It calls for a major overhaul, so that pupils will be “imbued with curiosity, open-mindedness and the ability to make connections between seemingly unrelated bits of information”. Schools should also emphasise teamwork and collaboration, the report recommends.

“This study raises serious concerns that UK education policy is turning our schools into exam factories, squeezing out creativity and the joy of learning at a time when these very attributes are becoming increasingly important,” it says.

“Worryingly, the skills that are easiest to teach and test — method and recall — are also the easiest to automate.”

The report says knowledge will remain important in future, but warns that “with widespread internet access, the labour market no longer rewards workers primarily for what they know but for what they can do with what they know”.

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