This is not a political statement, but Scotland is a conservative country. Take a look at education.

by Isabelle Boyd

About 10 years ago, I had the opportunity to visit a hospitality school in Paris. It was assessment day and the students were on their best game. There were two sets of assessors. One pair were assessing the students’ knowledge and skill in the kitchen and front of house in respect of “knowledge and how to do”: the savoir and savoir-faire. But the other pair were far more interesting. They were assessing the students’ ability and skills in team work, in supporting colleagues and in anticipating issues before they arose. They were assessing savoir être – the “how to be”.

This experience keeps coming back to me. No more so than in the past few weeks during the exam fiasco in Scotland – and rUK.

The approach in France very much mirrors the 4 Pillars of Education set out by UNESCO. It makes me ask “could we, should we attempt this type of assessment in Scotland?”

I do not know the answer but I do know the current approaches do not allow all young people to achieve their best; to showcase what they can do rather than what they can remember.

I feel there is a place for a summative assessment process (i.e. an exam), but we cannot continue to put all eggs in that basket or favour that basket to the exclusion of others.

I’m looking forward to exploring possibilities with @examscot about ensuring equity and equality for all young people in Scotland.

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2 thoughts on “This is not a political statement, but Scotland is a conservative country. Take a look at education.”

  1. A couple of things stand out to me about this post. One is that there were two pairs of assessors. Four assessors! Not sure how often that level of staffing is applied to school-level assessments in the UK.

    The second is that we need to be frank about the repeated failures of vocational education and training models in the UK: through numerous relaunches, society as a whole (education + industry + other communities) repeatedly seems to fail to fully embrace the potential for both learners/young professionals and industry/society. I was looking into Modern Apprenticeships in Scotland last week, and the model really does seem to fall short of the kind of training that is provided in countries with a longer continuous dedication to vocational training, such as Germany. But I hope educators with greater expertise in this area will correct me if I’m wrong in additional comments below!

    Where we could really move things forward is if we were to take successful models of assessment, examination and certification from sectors and countries who have been successful in vocational education and training, and also apply those to ‘academic’ courses: it’s well over 60 years now since C. P. Snow wrote about the dangerous dichotomy between “applied” and “pure” science, but we don’t always seem to have made a huge amount of progress at genuinely bridging (subject content-specific pun intended) the gap between, say, Design & Technology and Physics through an approach which fully embraces the position of, for example, Engineering, in a position requiring the utmost rigour in both “applied” and “pure” domains.

  2. Might this be an opportunity to consider project based learning, where both knowledge and skills can be assessed?

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