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One for the English teachers…

February 16, 2007

WritingIt’s that time of year again… the Standard Grade (SG) folios are nearing completion and the average English teacher is rapidly heading for ‘folio madness’.

For those that don’t know (through age and/or geography), the folio is a collection of five of a pupil’s best pieces of work which are gathered together and sent off to the SQA so that they can ruin some other poor teacher’s Easter holiday. Last year, SG English was taken by 58,832 pupils (or so The Scotsman informs me)… in other words, 58,832 folios were produced, each consisting of five pieces of writing… which works out at 294,160 essays… each of at least one sheet of A4 paper, but more likely to be two pages each (588,320 sheets of paper), or even three pages (882,480). Now, I have absolutely no idea just how many trees go into making the paper that the pupils write their essays on… my best guess is (courtesy of this Reflex Fact Sheet from Australia) is anything from 1 to 3, and what I would also say is that this figure does not take into account the helpless trees and shrubs (for pity’s sake… think of the shrubs…) that died to make the paper that the first and sometimes second drafts were produced on… and then there is the environmental cost, the CO2 cost, the financial cost of all that paper, and the countless printer and toner cartridges that were used to produce yet another essay about why Macbeth was just misunderstood… and there is also the great expense of collecting and delivering the folios to the SQA, then to the markers, then back to the SQA, then to the warehouse, and then to the recycling plant…

And what I want to know is… why?

In this online connected world, in this environmentally aware age, in this brave new world, why are we insisting that pupils should be producing a paper copy of something that can be just as easily submitted electronically? Courtesy of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 the submitted folios do not have any comments written on them by the marker, so it would be simplicity itself to attach an electronic frontspiece for the markers to enter the 5 numeric grades for the folio pieces. The system would (in theory) be much more streamlined and efficient… and as a fringe benefit would kill plaigarism of other pupils’ essays in one fell swoop (it is a simple matter to compare 294,160 electronic documents, it is nigh on impossible to do the same with their paper equivalents).

And from my point of view, I wouldn’t have a great pile of redrafts that I have to wade through before I see my class again… well… perhaps somethings would be the same…


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