In the last few weeks there have been calls for the reform of UK secondary school exams such as GCSEs and A levels. This kind of rhetoric I think is dangerous and misleading, it suggests that the current exams are not fit for purpose, portraying the young as breezing through exams, A*’s all round, without knowing simple spellings or mathematics. Yes in some, this is a problem, basic knowledge and skills are not being learnt or taught, but I don’t agree that the whole education system is getting easier.
The perception that everybody is doing well in education is a myth, the pass rate last year for GCSE’s A*-C grades was 69.8% which may be due to students being able to take some GSCE exams in a modular fashion as early as age 14. If everyone was indeed doing well, the pass rate would be 100%… This increase in the pass rate should be celebrated, that our youth have a interest in learning. The addition of coursework at GSCE and A level I think makes the qualifications more ecologically valid, after all in real life test conditions are rare, you are often given the ability to be constantly assessed in the work place through projects, training and employee set goals.
There are types of knowledge that do need to be focused on to maintain the UK education system such as: an emphasis on grammar in English, basic everyday maths and practical knowledge in the sciences, but on the whole the education system is not a crumbling wreck. It is still well respected all over the world churning out world class graduates and attracting students from abroad. However, to maintain this, reforms are inevitable, but going back to O level style GCEs and the CSE system I think would be taking a step back, and the scrapping of the national curriculum would be less than helpful. Criticising the education system undermines the thousands of hard-working teachers and students who are under increasing pressure to perform. Those of you that think these exams are easy, I urge to take your GCSEs again and see how easy they are.