When it comes to exams I have never been a fan of multiple choice questions.
I can't help myself. I am sure I know the answer but all too often I find the alternative answers so wide of the mark that my brain starts questioning whether the examiner understands the subject in the first place. From that point on I seem to go downhill quickly.
On the other hand give me an essay question and I can mix it with the best of them (even if I'm hazy on the subject myself).
Give me a tick box and my brain turns to mush. Having said that I think even with my severe 'multiple choice' blindness I could pass a present-day Science GCSE with my eyes closed.
The problem is so should everybody else. But it seems that the 'dumbing down' of the UK education system has hit new lows and I really fear for the future of science and technology in this country.
The UK has a proud tradition of scientific breakthroughs and engineering excellence but the chance of future generations of UK scientists upholding the tradition is looking shaky at the moment.
And this is not just my opinion. An examiner's report from one of the examination authorities, Edexcel, included the following comments on the 2008 GCSE science exam:
Candidates seemed secure on some aspects of the solar system and space but over 20 percent of candidates thought the Sun orbited the Earth.
Only 58 percent realised that solar cells receive their energy from light energy.
The amazing percentage of 59 percent of higher level candidates think the current in a wire is the movement of positive electrons.
On that level of performance it does not look like we can expect too many Nobel Prizes for solar cell technology or power management coming out of the UK in the next few decades. In fact we may be lucky if we can find someone capable of changing a lightbulb by then.
The assessment of some of the leading experts from the numerous examination boards in the UK pinpoints that students are not being given enough opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and the quality of questions needs to improve.
Well I thought that was the case about 30 years ago.
Maybe I am in the wrong profession. Or maybe some of the education experts are.