Exams - Are they worth it????

I made a poor start with the head of Media Studies at my local school. The school has Technology and Media Arts Special status and it was my first meeting with him and he obviously wanted to impress. I can’t remember the exact figures he gave me, but some of his very first words to me were his proud boast that last year they’d achieved an above average exam score. He was a little taken aback by my lack of response.

Every year seems to set another record of ‘A’s and ‘A*’s in exams, but how much worth does an exam result have when so many other students (degree or A level), have the same seemingly impressive results? What makes your students stand apart from the rest in the race to be employed somewhere and expound their art?

I had an interesting conversation with the ‘Product design’ head of department of my son’s University.  He said to us he actually doesn’t like taking in straight ‘A’ students as they don’t tend to complete the course and aren’t usually practical enough to make it either on the course or in the jobs they eventually get – which obviously then reflects on the university!

The education system is very academically orientated - there’s a whole other debate as to whether media studies is a academic or vocational subject. But, there is so much weight given to the quality of exam results and statistic tables (academic achievement), that a lot of schools/Universities have lost sight of their primary aim, that is to help the student achieve their best potential, not simply the best exam results. Exam results can be achieved by just teaching how to best past exams – I’ve heard students quite often complaining that there were parts of the exam they’d just sat where they actually hadn’t been taught that particular part of the subject – teachers concentrating on certain core parts of the subject so they get good marks, but missing out whole sections of the subject.

So what is the important part in a media studies course?   The answer has to be not the ’studies’ part , but the ‘media’ bit – the students project work is the thing that will not only show their future talent, but also separate them from the myriad of others with the exam same grades, especially when it comes to the real world job interview. The main criteria any employer will give you regarding a new employee is the need for talent. We’ve all heard stories of people who’ve made it the real world who we’re written off at school – usually because they didn’t do very well at exams! We need to give the students the opportunities to express their talents to the full - with our guidance help develop those talents and help build a strength of character that will help them through life, not just an exam.

Within Media Studies we need to have the facilities and expertise to allow the students to create project work of a standard that will allow this to become the start of their future career portfolio.  Some years ago the statistics were that the Universities produced over 4,000 media studies graduates a year, for just 120 found jobs available in the Media Industry.   If your students are going anywhere in the media, they have to have that supporting project work, exam results are not enough!

Although it is changing, I still come up against the attitude that since I didn’t take a 3 year degree course some 30 years ago (which would actually have been in a completely unrelated subject), I’m not worth considering as a expert in media studies, even though I spent 4 year gaining a HNC in electronics and computing and obviously have 30 years knowledge gained from a generous experience working in the media.

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Many thanks for you patience.
Kind regards,
Mike - Media4ed.

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