BlogOfTheMoon

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Citizenship test

I was shown the official practice citizenship test for the UK recently and thought that I'd give it a go. Having a required pass mark of 18 out of 24, I scored a mighty 15. And some of those were educated guesses. It wasn't so much the fact that despite being reasonably intelligent, well-educated and politically-aware, I scored badly on the (multiple-choice) test that worried me but the fact that some of the questions were very badly worded, were logically inconsistent and some were just plain irrelevant. This is, of course, especially going to be a problem for those for whom English isn't their first language.

I mean, I can see the point of asking questions relating to the British health and education systems, given that migrants will probably want to use them at some point (although even here, some of the actual questions were awful) but what is the point of asking the year that women got the right to divorce? Or the percentage of people identifying themselves as Muslim? Or the number of children in the country?

And it's not like you're given broad categories. I could probably estimate the number of children to within maybe 10-15 percent, but the options were within one million of each other, which makes it impossible to make an educated guess. The same with the Muslim question - the answers were all within about a quarter percent of each other. There is an official handbook and study guide and presumably the answers that they want are there, so all you have to do is to buy the books (making a nice sum for the Government in the process), memorise them and regurgitate the answers on demand.

Learning by rote has been shown time and again to be an ineffective method of learning complex concepts, and I think that citizenship and belonging certainly qualifies in that category. This test feels like it's been written by people who understand neither pedagogy nor citizenship. I completely fail to see how it judges anyone to be 'fit' for British citizenship. Despite all this, I'd suggest that the failings of the test are due to incompetency rather than any systematic malice or ill-will; a thought that I find oddly comforting.

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