Tougher testing for 16 year-olds

A return to final examinations and an emphasis on Shakespeare and British history feature in what’s been described as the most significant package of GCSE reforms in a generation.

The Education Secretary says that the new qualifications will rein in ‘rampant’ grade inflation and equip the nation’s children to perform in the modern world, the Daily Mail reports.

The new GCSEs, to be taught from September 2015, will be ‘more challenging, more ambitious and more rigorous’. Coursework, which Mr. Gove insisted had ‘corrupted the credibility of grades’, will be abolished except in a few areas like science practicals. Final exams will be graded from eight to one, replacing the current A to G system, and changes in subjects will include:

  • in maths, there will be greater emphasis on solving unfamiliar problems
  • history will feature a minimum of 40% British history
  • in English literature candidates will read whole texts, including a Shakespeare play
  • English language will require extended writing, with 20% of marks for spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Mr. Gove’s proposals won unexpected support from Labour MP Diane Abbott, leading him to reply: “I am in love. You are absolutely right.” Her colleagues aren’t as keen, with Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg warning:”Pupils and parents will be concerned by the uncertainty that Michael Gove has created around GCSEs.”

ATL’s Mary Bousted said she was concerned for ‘Mr Gove’s guinea pigs’: “End-of-course exams on a single-day test recall and memory rather than the range of skills that young people need in the 21st century,” she said.

A group of over 100 history teachers has joined the critics of the ‘Gove-levels’. In a letter to The Independent they describe the reforms as ‘jingoistic’ and claim they are a breach of their legal duty to avoid ‘the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in the school’.

Who’s right – Michael Gove or his critics? Share your views with the Eteach community!

9 thoughts on “Tougher testing for 16 year-olds

  1. I wholeheartedly agree with the newly proposed system, at the moment our children are unprepared and uneducated for the work world. They lack functional skills, tenacity, willpower and motivation……they expect everything on a platter. They need to understand that they have to work hard for EVERYTHING including their education.

  2. Why oh why do whole systems have to be changed? Present GCSEs are not all bad, nor is the grading system. As a teacher myself, with over 35 years teaching experience, I feel that it’s going to result in millions and millions of £s wasted when we can least afford it.

  3. Having just completed two years of teaching IGCSE ESL English at an international school which is currently seeking WASC accredatation i think I agree with the changes, but add that the teaching of the basic research skills must also accompany the changes mentioned.

    I found my students stimulated by the literature and extended project components i added during both years which focused on the development of the critical analysis, gist, scan and skim skills taught by the CIE program. My students loved Shakespeare, Dickens, Hardy, Kipling, Mansfield, and some modern novels; they loved poetry, [the classics and modern] and they loved doing creative writing of all genre. The project-information based nature of much of the ESL IGCSE program limited their literature development, and did not adequately deal with grammar needs.

    As a teacher I enjoyed the IGCSE ESL focus, but by adding a solid literature component, added to my own teacher satisfaction. In a developing nation where literature had been absent for many years, the reading of it helped remove “intellectual starvation and boredom’ from the students. I’m sure that more research is necessary before 2015, May-June exams, but heads up for the moves.

    Cheers,
    as above.

  4. Whilst I agree its important for people to understand British history and have a sense of what has made Britain what it is today, surely this narrow view of the world instilled in our young does not bode well for the future. Would this not restrict their understanding of the rest of the world and how we interconnect with it? Also, we are not the superpower that myopic, self-aggrandising people like Mr Gove seem to think we are.

  5. This is not new Mr Grove. In 1966 when I did my O’levels I seem to remember being graded from 1 – 7, depending on the exam board and the History focus was on British History (>60%). How I wish I could have looked at History from a more gobal perspective as todays students do. Are we going to end up with a more parochial attitude like the Americans?

  6. I STRONGLY SUPPORT MICHAEL GOVE FOR THE REFORMS IN EDUCATION IN ENGLAND/UK.
    THIS IS A VERY POSITIVE MOVE TO ENHANCE ENGLAND/UK TO BE ABLE TO COMPETE WITH THE REST OF THE WORLD.THE REMOVAL OF ASPIRATION CAP IS THE BEST FOR EVERY INDIVIDUAL.AS A FULLY QUALIFIED MATHEMATICS TEACHER IN ENGLAND WITH OVER TWO DECADES OF MATHEMATICS TEACHING EXPERIENCE IN ENGLAND AND ABROAD,I AM VERY DELIGHTED THAT THE OLD GOOD DAYS OF LEARNING MATHEMATICS THE PROPER WAY IS BACK AND I BELIEVE IT SHOULD STAY FOREVER.WELL DONE GOVE!!!!

  7. Exams are good for some people but not everyone; exams can turn off the brightest student too and can limit creativity. Students think differently, have different learning styles and different talents. Personally I wouldn’t want to be a student under Mr Gove. He is so compelled on competing globally that he is losing sight of the bigger picture, foundation isn’t just about the roots of learning but also the community, the youth and culture we have today in Great Britain and the way we learn.

  8. A minimum of 40% British history is not a lot. We have a lot of history and much can be learnt of the world within the 40%. That still leaves 60% world history… ‘The bigger picture’. I’m no fan of Gove but grade inflation does need to be addressed and we are plummeting in world league tables for education…’The bigger picture’. It is tragic that the sciences are not held in such a high regard as other developed and developing nations…’The bigger picture’. Hopefully these changes will be positive and value for money as opposed to previous rhetoric of ‘Education, Education, Education’ which resulted in ‘Spend, Spend, Spend’ which was not commensurate to ‘success’.

  9. I do not agree about the two years study then do final exam. The assessment methods should be combine in coursework, presentation, final exam and daily based assess. One final exam is just memorise type of education. The grading 40% this is sound good.

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