Primary school tests kill joy of books: UK laureate

Fri May 15, 2009 6:38am EDT
 
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By Simon Falush

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - An uninspiring regime of testing and targets in primary schools is damaging education and turning a generation of children off reading, Britain's laureate for children told Reuters.

Michael Rosen is an enthusiastic exponent of reading to children of all ages, but the laureate said the British government's obsession with measuring educational success using standardized tests known as SATs and league tables for schools has left little room for meaningful engagement with books.

"What's happened since they invented SATs...is they've taken literature out of the curriculum and in its place put worksheets which don't look at whole books, they just look at passages," Rosen said.

SATs are tests taken by 7 and 11 year olds in Britain based on a government-approved national curriculum. They are used to help calculate a school's performance and its ranking in published league tables.

Speaking over lunch at a cafe near London's South Bank after recording a literature program for BBC radio at the recreated Shakespeare's Globe theater, Rosen said SATs tests have sharply narrowed horizons in the classroom.

"It has been disastrous because instead of kids finding out why books are fun and enjoyable and interesting, instead they've just had these little slabs of text thrown at them, and the questions are the most boring, irrelevant questions."

SATs for 14-year olds were scrapped last year and Rosen thinks that a threat from Britain's teaching unions to refuse to administer the tests, may succeed in putting the final nail in the coffin of the whole system.

Rosen said the government believes that it can measure the outcome of every learning experience.   Continued...