Nowadays education plays an important role in the society, and one of the most crucial questions for today is the testing system. It is impossible to measure the level of educational quality without examination process as well as to revise students’ knowledge. For a long time, the rating systems continued to be the center of attention and the reason for debates, since proper evaluation of one’s knowledge correctly is an extremely difficult issue. With the development of modern technologies, such type of examination as testing is becoming more and more popular as the main method of state exams procedure in many countries including the USA, where the nationwide standardized tests are implied. Those tests examine the achievements of primary and secondary school children, what has caused an outbreak of disagreement throughout the country. Some people support the idea of nationwide standardized tests being held on those stages of schooling as they believe it helps to evaluate children’s progress since early childhood. However, it cannot be denied that nationwide standardized tests at such a young age have negative effects on the system of education in terms of psychological pressure on children, a rather poor quality of methods measuring their intelligence, and unequal conditions for students in the process of exam preparation.
First, taking an exam in early childhood may have a detrimental effect on children’s mental health. The prospective of taking an exam is extremely stressful for children, especially for those who are on the primary school level of education. What is more, children are supposed to sit an exam every two years, which is too frequent even for a precise knowledge check. As a result, students of primary and secondary schools suffer from constant pressure as they always need to be preparing for an upcoming exam, not to mention being pressurized in view of the deadlines and dates. On the contrary, according to Woessmann (2016), children in such countries as Korea, Finland, and even some parts of Canada, who show the highest results during nationwide exams, have their major tests only at the end of high school education (p. 3). Furthermore, the testing system includes multiple choice answers, which only very few six-year children manage to pass, so such system of education based on constant testing may be harmful for young children who are used to learning through games but not to memorizing so much information. Thus, the practice of making children take an exam at such an early age is unreasonable in terms of educational quality because of the additional stressful situations for children.
Second, nationwide standardized tests are not useful in improving the level of intelligence. It is widely known that all the tests are organized in such a way to make students memorize items. Obviously, they would manage to provide a correct answer only in case the information included in the sample of tests was familiar to them. That is why, it is almost impossible to pass an exam without memorizing those items of a test beforehand. On the contrary, a test system is not supposed to measure the level of creativity and critical thinking, which actually predetermines the image of a well-educated and intelligent person. Instead of that, all that it estimates is the skills of memorizing specific facts without questioning them. It would result in children reaching such a conclusion: everything should have been already done instead of them and they simply need to accept it. Moreover, the testing system is similar to a quiz show, where only one or two answers are possible and the faster you are, the better. However, that is not the way the real life is organized. Obviously, such educational system will lead to the children’s wrong perception of the world as well as to the tendency of all or none thinking among young generation. It is difficult to disagree with the fact that pupils should be taught how to make their own decisions and express their opinion instead. For instance, the system of education in Oxford University, which is one of the most world-recognized universities, encourages students to have an argument even with a teacher if you are confident about your point of view. Apart from this, such system urges students not to hesitate to check all the information provided during the course in order to develop their critical thinking. That is why it is essential to include open-ended questions in the exams to evaluate whether a student is able to think and express his/her thoughts and not just choose one answer from the list.
Third, the results of the tests also depend on additional factors, such as a school that a child attends and the amount of time that can be divided for out-of class additional training. For example, according to PISA’s research, the wealthier a school is, the better marks students receive in the nationwide standardized tests (OECD, 2013, p. 43). Consequently, material resources play a vital role in the quality of education that children receive as well as the textbooks and teachers’ performance. Thus, the results of testing depend not only on students’ native intellectual ability but also on the financial background of a family they come from. Therefore, those children from less affluent families need to spend more time on afterschool activities to be as successful as their peers, especially considering the fact that not all the materials included into those tests are available in textbooks. This indicates that much information must be covered independently. As a result, some children are at a disadvantage compared to other people preparing for the test.
On the other hand, some people support the idea of nationwide standardized tests in primary and secondary schools as they show the quality of knowledge students have received during studying and whether they have managed to make some achievements in education at a young age. Obviously, all skills that children have gained on a certain level of education need to be measured as well as their progress. For instance, the information received with the help of testing may be useful in terms of identifying the gaps in students’ knowledge and the steps that must be taken additionally. Besides, such check will show whether a child has some talents in one or another area that may be developed. In addition, the information about students’ performance during the exams has lately been used as a main factor in a selection of potential university and college newcomers. However, it still does not explain such frequency of holding the exams among children of primary and secondary school. It is generally accepted that every school has its own system of measuring the level of students’ knowledge during the semesters, so an additional nationwide standardized test is not of primary importance. Besides, according to a research conducted by PISA, 12 % of students who sit nationwide standardized tests in primary and secondary school receive at least one repeatable mark (OECD, 2013, p.75). It means that the level of children’s educational progress does not differ dramatically from year to year and therefore the tests may be conducted less frequently without affecting the results. Consequently, it is still possible to make conclusions about students’ progress without nationwide standardized tests in primary and secondary school.
In conclusion, nationwide standardized tests have their advantages as well as disadvantages. On the one hand, one should admit that such tests help to evaluate the quality of education, and nowadays the educational system is the only one in the country to perform the role of investigator in the studying process. However, it is not perfect as it shows a rather adverse effect on the education. For instance, it causes stressful situations for children, incorrect approach to evaluating the level of students’ intelligence, and unequal conditions for children that prepare for the exams. Thus, the tests should undergo the experts’ examination in order to be improved and corrected. The age of those students willing to take the exams should be reconsidered as well.