Ok once again Michael Gove MP has entered the news with his plans on GCSEs. This time it’s issues with the brand that has made the headlines.
Questions are being raised about how it should be distinguished from the current GCSE system. There are speculative reports saying that it might be rebranded as ‘l-levels’, assuming the ‘l’ means lower to match A-levels being Advanced Levels. I guess that makes sense, but this hasn’t been decided according to Ofqual.
All this is happening because the exams are breaking up from Wales and Northern Ireland, where these changes are not happening. This has been made clear by Welsh education minister Leighton Andrews, who states that there is no intention of changing the name in Wales.
As well as distinguishing the English GCSE from versions in Wales and Northern Ireland, there is also the issue of how the reformed GCSEs should be labelled to show the difference from the existing GCSEs.
Not all GCSE subjects will be changed initially, which will mean that there will be old and new versions of GCSEs being studied in England at the same time.
The changes already revealed for GCSEs indicate that they will be graded numerically rather than by letter. Rather than grading as A, B or C, there will be grades of 1,2,3 and so on. Mr Gove has told a select committee that he strongly backs this change, but as I mentioned before in a previous blog about this, I really don’t see the point of this.
The final change is that there will be a shift away from coursework and assessment of individual units to taking an exam at the end of a two-year course. This for me is worse than what we have already. I am a personal hater of exams for personal experience reasons, but also because exams don’t really test what you know. Instead, they test what you can remember. I can certainly vouch for that as I took a French and German GCSE 5 years ago, along with all my other GCSEs, and I can hardly remember anything of either of them as I’ve barely spoken or written a word of it since. For me coursework should be the answer. Having one monumental exam at the end of the course means that the exams would have to be very long to accommodate every individual unit, which is going to put even more pressure on kids. We, as teachers, already put too much pressure on kids in my opinion, so this will further compound the issue.
This is not the first time Mr Gove has tried to get rid of GCSEs as they are. In fact, according to shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg, this is the third time. Twigg claims that Mr Gove keeps failing because he hasn’t got a thought through plan to improve exams. Changing letters to numbers and the name of the exams is hardly the key to higher standards. We need serious proposals that learn from the best countries in the world. This needs a rigorous focus on English and Maths and testing both academic knowledge and the skills that young people will need in the workplace. It has to be said he has a point. Not long ago, I had a friend phone me up and ask me what was cheaper, 3 for 2 or half price. These are things that should be obvious to people.
My opinion hasn’t changed much on this matter, I still believe the proposed changes are quite frankly worse than the current system we have got, and thus implementing it would be disastrous for education in this country. But I guess you can expect that when we have an Education Minister who has no experience in education, only experience in journalism. This is a classic example of why we don’t want incompetent people running our country.
Comment your thoughts 🙂