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Saturday, July 31, 1999 Published at 23:15 GMT 00:15 UK


UK students face testing times

Pupils in the UK spend much time preparing for exams

Secondary school pupils in the United Kingdom face more exams and tests than anywhere else in western Europe, say researchers.

The education systems in the UK place a much greater emphasis on tests and exams than their European counterparts, say researchers at the London School of Economics' Centre for Education Research.

"The amount of time devoted to external examinations in individual subjects in England and Wales is very high compared with other countries," says Anne West, the research centre's director.

As well as taking more exams and tests, schools in the UK also devote a much larger amount of time preparing for exams than elsewhere in western Europe, often at the expense of non-exam based learning.

Exam culture

This culture of exams and testing, familiar in the United Kingdom is far from being typical for European pupils, the study of 22 countries and regions concluded.

Although Dr West says that the study, funded by the European Commission, is not intended to be "judgmental", the report found that areas which have traditionally been seen as having high standards of education - such as Scandinavia - focus less on exams than the UK.

While pupils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland might face up to 10 exams at GCSE, their counterparts in Europe might only be required to take exams in three areas - maths, a foreign language and their own national language.


Dr West said that the research, Secondary Education across Europe: Curricula and School Examination Systems, suggested that there might be an alternative to the system of placing great emphasis on assessing pupils at the age of 16.

"There are other options. There could be three or four core subjects to be examined at 16, with a much broader sixth-form curriculum to follow," said Dr West.

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