Exams for children and adults

Education systems across the globe aim to sort people across two abilities, a/ accuracy given limited time to think and b/ memorizing facts.

As a student’s age increases, the emphasis on both axes deepens. As a first year engineering student, I recall how a thermodynamics paper required me to reproduce the value of Boltzmann’s constant (K) in two different conversion units. Over 60 minutes, I needed to perform mental gymnastics 30 times to prove my worth.

I sometimes wonder why we’ve designed education systems in this way when these are poor predictors of future success.

Noone would name their favourite (or inspiring) colleague, musician, sportsperson, doctor, craftsperson, lawyer, insert any job here because they can mirror a Google search result.

As people become older, the sorting mechanic changes to focus on a/ depth, b/ influence and c/ tenacity. Like most firms hiring into new roles, we’ve designed interview processes to select people who can think through problems n layers deep, convince their colleagues this solution is the appropriate cost/benefit tradeoff and then work on hard issues for months to take things to a logical end. This is consistent across functions.

In a lot of non-economic contexts, e.g., music or sport or politics, this happens organically. Would you, the reader, value a lyricist who can write a song in 60 seconds or someone who captures your soul in verse?

Apprenticeship as a teaching model solved this ages ago. Collectively, we’ve settled on training chefs, doctors and worksmiths in one beautiful way while engineers, academics, marketers, … are all handed a bucket to fish in the sea.

To be continued. I’m not yet sure if I have a clear purpose for writing this. Might delete later.


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