Curiosity

Some UK Teachers Are Getting Rid Of Analog Clocks To Help Kids Work Faster During Exams

Some British students were distracted by the analog clocks during high-stakes standardized tests.

For as long as clocks have been in classrooms, teachers have been frustrated by them — usually because the kids are distracted by watching the hands tick away the seconds until recess.

In a sign of our fast-changing times, though, it appears some students in the United Kingdom are distracted by traditional clocks during exams. As a result, some teachers in the U.S. are deciding to replace analog clocks with digital ones to lessen this distraction during exams.

Exam Stress Due To Clocks?

According to a report in the UK’s Telegraph, some teachers have replaced traditional clocks with digital clocks because students complained they couldn’t easily keep track of the time during exams.

“The current generation aren’t as good at reading the traditional clock face as older generations,” said Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary at the Association of School and College Leaders in England. “Nearly everything they’ve got is digital, so youngsters are just exposed to time being given digitally everywhere.”

Fact-check website Snopes pointed out that Trobe’s statements appear to be referring only to the context of high-pressure, standardized tests with specific time constraints. In other words, schools aren’t just tossing all analog clocks into the trash.

clock photo
Getty Images | Win McNamee

High School Students Struggling With Non-Digital Clocks

This doesn’t appear to only be a problem for younger children who may not have had much exposure to analog clocks. Even some high school-age students have seen their time-telling skills start to fade over the years, according to some educators.

“It is amazing the number of students I am coming across in Year 10, 11 and in sixth form [10th, 11th and 12th grade, respectively] who do not know how to tell the time,” said one teacher in Tes, an educational resource for teachers in the UK. “We live in a world where everything is digital. We are moving towards a digital age and they do not necessarily have analog watches anymore and they have mobile phones with the time on.”

My iPhone 3G 16GB
Flickr | JAK SIE MASZ

The Added Stress Of Time

Trobe, a former school headmaster, told the Telegraph, that replacing traditional clocks for digital ones would hopefully help students be able to manage their time better. This, in turn, would help things “as easy and straightforward as possible” during these stressful exam situations.

The overall goal, then, is to make students as comfortable and relaxed as possible so they may succeed in their tests.

“You don’t want them to put their hand up to ask how much time is left,” he told the Telegraph.

raising hands photo
Getty Images | Christopher Furlong

Holding Out Hope For Analog Clocks

Despite the changes, education officials are holding out hope that the time for traditional clocks hasn’t completely expired in other less stressful situations.

“It may be a little sad if youngsters coming through aren’t able to tell the time on clock faces,” Trobe said. “One hopes that we will be teaching youngsters to read clocks. However, we can see the benefit of digital clocks in exam rooms.”

U.S. Prepares To Set Clocks Back As Daylights Saving Time Ends
Getty Images | Joe Raedle

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that teachers are replacing analog clocks with digital clocks in high-pressure, standardized testing scenarios only.