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Is educational testing stunting Gen Alpha's potential?

Updated: Jul 20

Teaching to test could stunt the most creative generation we have ever seen

From the Phonics Screening Check in Year One right up until A-Levels, UK kids face statutory tests throughout their school careers and routinely these assessments are criticised by educators, policy-makers and parents for their impact on children.

Although under extraordinary circumstances, this year is giving us the first opportunity to see what learning could be like away from testing and formal school routines and the truth is - some kids are thriving.

Given autonomy, digital resources, clear expectations and a set of headphones, kids are acting as “mini freelancers” and building their own routines.

Just under half of UK kids (44%) would rather stay at home and do schoolwork than go back to a safe school and only 28% think lessons are better at school. For boys in particular it increases with 51% of them preferring to stay at home.

This is not surprising – Generation Alpha is the most innovative and creative generation we have ever seen. They are adaptable and hands-on in their approach to problem-solving and display great digital creativity and dexterity.

Already 63% of Gen Alpha parents agree that their children come up with creative solutions to problems that they would never have thought of and almost half (48%) of Gen Alpha parents feel that exams and tests stifle their child’s creativity.

Gen Alpha are predicted to carry this creative inventiveness into adulthood and the workforce yet access to more holistic, creative and nurturing education such as Montessori or Forest schools are restricted to the privileged families who can afford it. Restricting access to necessary digital resources and space to build their own school routines is sadly creating inequality and defining kids’ futures from the early years with nearly a fifth (18%) of UK kids saying they have not done any schoolwork since schools shut.

So how should we change education to better suit Gen Alpha and build their creative future?

During COVID 19 kids have had the opportunity to explore their diverse skills and to appreciate non-traditional routes to employment. They have seamlessly shifted from digital playgrounds to digital classrooms and relationships. To better develop an education system for them policy-makers and educators should understand kids’ adaptive use of tech their motivations for platform adoption and allow digital creativity.

Over a third (37%) of kids would prefer a mix of home and school learning to remove the rigidity of the school routine. Having spent time learning at home, nearly half of kids (48%) would like more breaks introduced at school and to work with computers (40%) and headphones (36%) to help concentration. But being at school and social interaction remains vital with 70% of kids citing their friends as the thing they miss most about school.

So although this period has been incredibly testing, it’s given an unique opportunity to focus on what Gen Alpha needs. It’s time to refocus the systems of the past to move into a better future.

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