Imagine the trauma of GCSE and A level students entering the examination room to find the question papers are incorrect, have missing data and the Educational Secretary is condemning the exams saying that they are an inadequate means to measure the teaching resources used. Educational Secretary Michael Gove’s recent comments urged the need for UK exams to match the world’s toughest. The content and timing of these strident comments has left head teachers, parents and students reeling. Confidence in the educational secretary and the educational system has once again been severely undermined.
For the children taking the exams having spent five years concentrating on the curriculum content, exam techniques and revision our teaching resources and pupils find the games being played by Michael Gove, who believes the exams are too easy and wildly adrift of what is required in our modern world, is a staggering blow to their confidence. In August when the results appear we will inevitably be involved in the annual debate with exam regulators and teachers on one side versus employers and universities who claim any increase in the pass rate implies a lower standard rather than students working harder or our teaching resources being more efficient. This criticism has faded all too quickly and the status quo remains largely unchanged.
Left unchanged The Department for education believes we will see a further decline in our world educational standards. Already we have sunk to the mid-twenties position in the world league table developed by the OECD. The view from keen2learn voiced many times in the past is that the curriculum and the exam standards should be controlled as entry levels to the next educational stage of the student. Primary school exams should be set by secondary school, GCSE’s set by industry and commerce, “A” level set by universities. This would remove the exam controversy and avoid children arriving on the doorstep of the next stage of their learning ill prepared for what is to happen next.
The recent statement by Michael Gove may appear strident and clumsy in the timing but seeks to address the misfit of our schooling with the needs of modern adult life. The fire from the hip approach will cause significant aggravation with teachers and the possibility of an overt rebuff that will allow the problem to still remain. Michael Gove further stated “By 2015 I want us to be on an irreversible trend to get more good teachers into teaching, more schools enjoying autonomy and all underperforming schools been taken over. I want us to refocus our curriculum to get rid of unnecessary extras and change our discredited exam system. It’s as much about modernisation as going back to tradition.”
The Educational Secretary has compared the output to the UK with the educational standards in Singapore, New Zealand, Canada and Hong Kong and believes that the route ahead lies in a mixture of old fashioned teaching resources and modern technology. This is to be combined with ill performing schools being handed over to local academies that would benefit more from a concentration of educational effort than perhaps emerged with local authorities.
Clearly the viewpoint of the Educational Secretary is paramount in the future for our schools and the education standards of our teachers and ultimately our children. The transfer to academy status may be a solution but overall it appears his strategy is being developed and released in piecemeal and in conflict with the head teachers who will be responsible to make it work. Surely the better approach would have been to take time out to develop the strategy thoroughly in association with our teaching resources and not rushed into premature statements which could imply muddled thought going off half-cocked leading to concerns, ridicule and negative reaction from teachers, parents and children.