Schools Are Taking Down Analog Clocks In Exam Halls Because Kids Can't Read Them

Schools Are Taking Down Analog Clocks In Exam Halls Because Kids Can't Read Them

It's a tough day when you have to come to terms with the fact that kids today can't read time from an analog clock.

The digital world is taking over and everywhere you go, people are staring at their phones, laptops, televisions... the list could go on. From communicating with each other to checking time, it's all on a screen. And it's taking effect in the United Kingdom, especially in schools, starting with teachers removing analog clocks from exam rooms and replacing them with digital clocks.

Why are they doing this, you ask? Because they want to make it easier for children who find it difficult to read analog clocks when they're already stressed out by how much time they have left during an exam. “You don’t want them to put their hand up to ask how much time is left," former principal Malcolm Trobe explained.

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A digital clock could help remove any extra stress which helps the school achieve their goal of trying to make everything as “easy and straightforward as possible.” Trobe, who is the deputy general secretary at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), told The Telegraph that children who are younger than 18 have become too accustomed to their digital information and that includes the clock.  He said, “The current generation aren’t as good at reading the traditional clock face as older generations.”

“They are used to seeing a digital representation of time on their phone, on their computer. Nearly everything they’ve got is digital so youngsters are just exposed to time being given digitally everywhere,” Trobe stated.

Being a former principal, he understands teachers' habit of prioritizing the kids. He said that the teachers wanted their students taking their exams to be as relaxed as possible since they already have to deal with the stress of writing answers. “Schools will inevitably be doing their best to make young children feel as relaxed as they can be. There is actually a big advantage in using digital clocks in exam rooms because it is much less easy to mistake a time on a digital clock when you are working against time.”

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Trobe mentions that there are still many children who don't seem to understand how to read a clock by the time high school rolls around, despite the fact that it is still taught to them when they were younger. “It may be a little sad if youngsters coming through aren’t able to tell the time on clock faces,” he said. “One hopes that we will be teaching youngsters to read clocks, however, we can see the benefit of digital clocks in exam rooms.”

Stephanie Keenan, head of English at Ruislip High School in north-west London, spoke to The Telegraph and said that she belonged to one of the many schools that had made the switch from analog to digital clocks. Cheryl Quine, head of the department at Cockermouth School and chair of the West Cumbria Network, said they did the same “when some [students] couldn’t read the exam room clock". 

As for teacher's responses to this change in the UK, “I know we try to limit their frustration levels but as some point, when is it too much?” Erin Steffan, an American early childhood educator at Reformation Nursery School in Media, Pennsylvania told ABC News. “When I speak to my child and say, ‘at quarter to four’ you have to be ready… What does that mean? I have to speak to them in digital terms.”

It also doesn't seem likely that this trend will catch on in the United States as being able to read an analog clock efficiently is still being stressed upon as part of the children's curriculum. This is a skill that Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, believes will remain strong. “There’s a lot of very complex mathematical manipulations that are involved in being able to tell time with an analog clock,” Burris told CBS. “It takes some of the math skills students are learning and gives them an important real-world context.”

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But it's not just telling time that is being affected. In 2018, Sally Payne, the head pediatric occupational therapist at the Heart of England Foundation NHS Trust, found some disturbing news. She said that children these days -- those who are immersed in technology -- are finding it more difficult to hold pens and pencils. “To be able to grip a pencil and move it, you need strong control of the fine muscles in your fingers. Children need lots of opportunity to develop those skills," she warned. 

"It’s easier to give a child an iPad than encouraging them to do muscle-building play such as building blocks, cutting and sticking, or pulling toys and ropes. Because of this, they’re not developing the underlying foundation skills they need to grip and hold a pencil."