A Generation That Can’t Tell Time

Image taken from Pixabay

by the intern of China Post

Telling time from an analog clock is an essential part of early education: a simple math lesson using 12 numbers and three hands – hours, minutes, and seconds – to determine the time. But with the shifting times, the newest generation has already begun to be unable to directly tell the time from a traditional clock. In England, some schools have even decided to change classroom clocks from analog to digital, in order for the students to be able to better understand the time.

English General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) professional test and GCE A-level curriculum students all complain that they are unable to tell the correct time from the clocks in the examination hall. The English Association of School and College Leaders Secretary General Malcolm Trobe says that young people today have already become accustomed to digital clocks: “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.”

Image taken from Pixabay

When racing against time in a test, every second counts, and having traditional clocks in the examination halls creates unnecessary pressure for the students who have difficulty reading this type of clock face. When their students are testing, teachers don’t want anything else to make them more nervous, so this idea to change the clocks provides an obvious solution to cutting down outside pressures. Without having to do additional math in their head calculating how much time they have left, the students can more completely fulfill the task in front of them. Former headmaster Trobe said, “You don’t want them to put their hand up to ask how much time is left [during an examination]. 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 the time on a digital clock when you are working against time.”

By the time students have reached middle school age, they generally know that they should be able to understand analog clocks. In England, some of the schools that have decided to make the switch from analog to digital have attracted online discussion. Some internet users think that if middle school examinees cannot even read a clock that this is a pathetic showing of the education system, and this student fundamentally should not be taking such a test. There are others that see digital clocks representing a generational trend: they are efficient and clear, and these digital clocks replacing traditional analog clocks is something that would have happened sooner or later.

Though a seemingly inconsequential topic, this conflict between analog and digital clocks is a microcosm for current societal changes. Multiple questions are raised in this discussion. Should society accommodate for the younger generation? Or teach them a skill that may likely reduce in usefulness within their lifetime, continuing a tradition unnecessarily except just for the principle of it? And what about this testing-centric education system: if the testing environment is so toxic as to make telling the time an unbearable pressure, what kind of system is it at all? Perhaps time is running out for analog clocks and the age of society they represent.