The government have this week unveiled plans to replace GCSEs with EBaccs but support for the changes has been mixed.
Currently, students begin studying for GCSEs at 14 years of age and will complete coursework over the next two years. At 16 the coursework along with final exams, sometimes as short as 90 minutes, will determine their grades. Students can be entered into one of the two tiers available – one that enables them to achieve up to a Grade C and a higher tier through which they could achieve the maximum A*. Partial re-sits of exams are also available to students who wish to attempt to increase their grade without having to re-sit the entire examination.
The English Baccalaureate will begin in 2015. Again, students will prepare for these over two years but there will be no coursework, instead returning to end of course exams as long as three hours each. To gain the English Baccalaureate certificate students will need to pass in six core subjects: Maths, English, any two sciences from physics, biology or chemistry, geography, history and a language. Only full exam re-sits will be available and there will no longer be the two-tiered system of entry.
The replacement to GCSEs which were originally introduced in 1988 are due to concerns regarding continuous ‘dumbing down’ over the years. This summer, for example, more than 22% of students passed their GCSEs with an A or A* result. Surely that figure is a little questionable? Shouldn’t it be expected that only a slight proportion of students would be able to achieve the heady heights of A and A* grades? For almost a quarter of students to be hitting those levels leaves me with one of two conclusions: that either we have a generation of geniuses (genii?) or that the grading boundaries have moved so far over that work which would once upon a time have been worthy of C grades are now considered A grade instead. Sadly, I do not believe it is the former.
Last year the British Chamber of Commerce released a report which stated that: ‘In general, younger people lack numerical skills, research skills, ability to focus and read, plus written English.’
Considering a quarter of them are supposed to be A grade students that’s more than a little worrying.
Director-General of the BCC David Frost made the bold statement last year that: “Overwhelmingly, business has adopted migrant workers for the simple reason that they are often better educated and have a stronger work ethic than local people.”
So are these changes desperately overdue?
Are we pushing our children to reach their full potential, or are we guilty of dumbing them down? Are we focusing more on protecting their feelings and (falsely-placed) self-esteem than encouraging them to reach further than they think they can reach to make them the best they can possibly be, or will the introduction of the EBaccs attack the self-confidence of a new generation? And might pandering rather than setting high standards to be reached be to blame for the excessive levels of unemployable unemployed we supposedly have according to the top business bosses?
What do you think?