One of the biggest educational debates for decades looms on the horizon. Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education plans to reintroduce “O” level exams at the end of secondary school. This latest initiative is one of his many measures to attempt to stem the decline in UK educational standards. Last used in 1988 the anachronistic “O” levels portray a sense of retrenchment. Will going backwards be seen as a positive move and reveal that GCSE’s after 25 years use are an abject failure.
To revert to an educational system abandoned a quarter of a century ago seems a travesty to millions of school children who have passed through the GCSE system. The immediate reaction from teaching resources appears negative. Having endured manoeuvres such as “teaching to test”, the manipulation of the syllabus to achieve targets, restrictions in the flexibility of the curriculum, lowering of exam values and the general criticism of standards by commerce and academia; it is no wonder.
The subsequent increase in stress and pressure on head teachers has diverted their attention from teaching to survival. Will the future herald Michael Gove as the courageous Educational Secretary who recognised that the current system is not fixable. Throwing out GCSE’s is an extraordinary audacious move that will inevitably receive condemnation, and hopefully, accolades. Nick Clegg has already stamped his foot over the lack of involvement in the policy even though the document hasn’t yet been published. Coalitions are not necessarily joined up politics. The labour party have also indicated their extreme displeasure with this “retrograde step.”
But is this the right move? Can we really say the UK educational programme has failed so radically that it should be replaced by a previous system abandoned 25 years ago? Technology, social networks, global markets, have invoked paradigm shifts in education and commerce, so is Mr. Gove right to go backwards. Certainly a change is needed. Successive educational secretaries for education have tried to patch up our schooling by throwing money at the problem. Countless, and predominately useless initiatives costing millions of pounds have burdened teachers and failed. With this background Gove’s plan at least demonstrates he has the right kind of balls unlike his predecessor (yes, I know!)
A fundamental move is absolutely vital. We have slipped down the OECD world educational standards league table to such an extent it is now an international embarrassment, and demonstrates an almost criminal neglect of our duty to our children. This demise will be paid for through the quality of young adults entering employment or higher education. Competing in an international market is growing increasingly tougher. Our children will pitch into the fray against international students who have had a manifestly better education. It bodes ill for our future economy.
Doubtless the storm from opposition leaders, teaching unions and liberal democrats will rage. They will see it as an injustice to have been excluded from the debate. Inevitably we should not expect a reciprocal idea as to how they would have solved the problem. Gove’s plan maybe radical and in this form turns the clock back rather than establish a complete new system. Our educational system was definitely broken and needed fixing, let’s hope the Gove plan to turn the clock back is the answer. We would adopt a system that worked up to 1988 let’s hope that it can metamorphasise into a 2012 success story.