Examinations Are Made Too Easy To Appease Authorities Not Children

Opinion / August 16, 2010

Every child likes to pass GCSE and A level exams to demonstrate ability, recognition of a job well done in school and as a precursor to a job in industry or place in university. But many observers believe we are lowering the educational relevance by playing games with the standards. In advance of the results due out this week along with the inevitable flood of angst, perhaps now is the time to scrap the GCSE and A level grades and replace them with examinations matched to the needs of universities and industry.

A notable critic from the world of science and chemistry believes too many people have vested interests in maintaining low educational standards.  Dr. Richard Pike, chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, condemns politicians, examination bodies, schools and educational quangos of collectively lowering the educational standards.  He believes corporate bodies do not want to upset middle class parents who recognise exam results as a primarily measure of society’s expectations rather than true academic performance.

Many schools, hounded by league tables, see quantity rather quality as their prime objective.  Although the exam regulators have twice recently attempted to install tougher GCSE exams through the examination bodies little has been enforced. Proving educational quangos have little real benefit or clout Dr Pike believes the needs of universities and industry has failed to be incorporated in the curriculum. “This is not a broken system that has to be fixed it is a corrupt edifice that must be razed to the ground and rebuilt” he said.

Stern words from an eminent leader in the science educational world.  If we accept the future destiny requires the UK to evolve in a rapidly changing world such significant observations from the likes of Dr. Pike cannot be ignored.  Criticism of the standard of GCSE and A levels has been widespread for years, yet little corrective action has been achieved.  No wonder, if school league tables and parental expectations continue to be the focus rather than the demands of industry, we are unlikely we can expect change.  This will be a disaster. To continue as we are we would end up with every child being awarded a grade A in all subjects – just by being there.

The GCSE and A level results could end up as a junk bond; a worthless qualification and as much use as the MBA degree offered on line in two weeks.  The exam boards such as Edexcel, although willing to work with Ofqual to get the balance right, need to review their position.  Rather than maintaining  a conciliatory position and clearly floundering in their duties they must opt to take a fundamental leadership role.
A significantly higher qualification standard needs to be introduced. We cannot afford to let universities and industry criticise the standard and relevance of the exams. We at keen2learn believe this move needs expediency.  Many children parents may reel at the significance of such a move, but the changes in global employment opportunities may otherwise leave our children out in the cold. We need a Department of Education that strategically has the courage to seize the initiative and adopt the moves to introduce the changes quickly despite the cost cutting era we are in.  We are duty bound to provide our children with continuing education that is fit for purpose and  avoid the continuation of the faltering soft option where exam questions can be answered by reading yesterday’s newspaper.

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