MindFight: Diploma exams should be… Entirely written!

By Ryan Pike

Education in Alberta has taken a bit of a dive in recent years. Funding has been cut and, as a result, budgets have been trimmed. The latest casualties are the written portions of math and science diploma exams. Now, aspiring university scientists and mathematicians will merely need to guess and get a good grade.

If anything, a different tact should be taken. Sure, government coffers are tight. However, imagine a world where every single student in Alberta must know how to balance chemical equations, plug away at long division and write eloquent essays about Shakespeare in order to progress. Students in diploma-level courses should have more than a basic working knowledge of their subject to do well. Requiring them to choose between four options at every juncture is too easy and doesn’t allow them to exhibit any real grasp of the coursework. The province should swing the pendulum back the other way and eliminate multiple choice, keeping the written portion.

Axing the multiple choice portion of the exam saves a bit of money, but by making the exams slightly shorter and more comprehensive, Alberta’s high school students will be pushed just enough to figure out who can hack it and who can’t. Removing the possibility of guessing your way to a diploma will actually make completing high school worthwhile, rather than just a formality on the road to “real” education. Heck, at least this way students will be more prepared when they hit the rigors of university.

While expanding written portions and eliminating multiple choice exams will undoubtedly have some associated costs, the benefits will eventually be plentiful. Written exams for all subjects will lead to a smarter crop of high school graduates moving onto universities or the workforce. Smarter workers and students will lead to a more innovative, efficient Alberta. A more innovative and efficient Alberta will, in turn, produce more economic surplus and provide more tax revenue for the province. By simply cutting out multiple choice exams, the provincial government can further cement Alberta’s placement as an economic powerhouse.

With their latest move, the provincial government has got it wrong. Making exams shorter and easier saves money, but makes students stupider and reliant on luck. A society filled with lucky idiots won’t have economic growth because nobody will know how to do anything. If the province wants long-term results, they should axe the multiple choice portion of the exams and commit to a future of brighter, smarter Albertans — albeit Albertans with hand cramps from writing so damn much.