At present a student sitting exams in their sixteenth year in the UK could be sitting one of a multitude of different papers for each subject and yet students’ results are ‘compared’ to provide statistical information. This is not only misleading but it also makes standardisation virtually impossible.
What we need is one body setting examinations for each subject; two exams for each. The subject matter should be decided by a panel of experts, partly from the academic world and partly from the world of business. These exams should be difficult (like O Levels used to be) and should be structured so that students are given a good grounding in each subject i.e. let’s learn about anatomy in Biology, not land fill sites.
Students leaving school at 16 will then have been given the opportunity to learn material that will be relevant and useful to them if they choose not to study further.
In unison with this, proper vocational courses should be run in schools. This will benefit both the less able and those students who have made clear career decisions. These qualifications should not be seen as a route for drop outs but should lead towards meaningful qualifications in carpentry or plumbing (for example).
Let’s make exams useful, difficult and put the same papers in front of every student.
Surely this is a sensible policy? By reducing standards and allowing almost everybody to ‘pass’ their exams the government has entered into a world where the difference between students is being masked. Not everybody is an academic and that doesn’t matter. Every pupil should be given an equal chance. Gathering people of similar abilities together is surely going to make teaching easier and more efficient. It also introduces (DARE I say it) competition; something that we are surrounded by every day of our lives. Let’s not pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s hard enough taking my 8 year old son to football tournaments where everybody ‘takes part’ but nobody wins. God forbid that somebody should lose!?
Imagine if we had just one body setting examinations for 16 year olds in the UK. The government is constantly looking for ways to save money; printing costs alone would save millions. I don’t think parents and the public in general have any idea of the ludicrous work load put upon Examination Officers these days. At many schools it is a full time job! At many private schools children in the same class will be sitting different exams for the same qualification! Mistakes are often made because of the complexity of so many different papers for the same subjects. Results comparisons are meaningless and standardisation is virtually impossible.
We need ONE body setting the examinations for core subjects at 16 and EVERYBODY should sit identical examinations for each subject. This would save money, raise standards, avoid errors and make statistical comparison of results have some meaning.
Does the government just trawl through statistics in an effort to find a way to lower standards through budget cuts? How can anybody seriously put forward the point of view that larger class sizes will not effect standards? Why can’t the government focus on improvement rather than cost cutting?
History has long had the unjust label of a ‘boring’ subject. As a History graduate with a continuing keen interest, I think it is vital for pupils to be given a proper grounding in the past. A knowledge of our past is crucial to understanding the present and unravelling the possible future.
I would like History to be compulsory to 16 in the UK with a strong bent towards the twentieth century – the melting pot for the world we live in now.
Let’s get back to thinking, to reading, to essay writing; only then can opinions and arguments be formed. Let’s stop spoon feeding History and try to engage young minds in investigating the past. The internet presents a perfect tool.
It’s a big question with many answers; often conflicting. I have been involved in education professionally for nearly 20 years, I am state educated but have had intimate ties with private education throughout that time.
The answer to the question is enormously affected by demographics. Most privately educated children will aspire (or at least their parents will) to A Levels, University and a career to follow. This will also be the case with many state educated pupils. However, (mainly) within the state sector there will also always be enormous quantities of students for whom school is just compulsory. They have to go and they look forward to leaving; often with few prospects and very little idea of what to do next.
It is these students that the system lets down the most.
If you leave school at 16 what should you know? Most people will agree that a basic knowledge of English and Maths (numeracy and literacy if you prefer) is a given – but what else?
In our heavily politicised system there is far too much emphasis on passing (so that the government can say what a good job they’re doing) and far too little on content.
To take one example it is possible for two students to both get an A* (A* being of course a nonsense concept in its own right) at GCSE without having done a single question in common. How can we possibly compare pier groups in this way? With multiple Examination Boards the statistics are meaningless. With this system there is also no standardisation of content excepting broad National Curriculum guidelines.
We need to sweep away the nonsense of the multiple exam board system, set up panels consisting of a mixture of academics and representatives from industry to decide exactly what people ought to know at 16 for each subject. There should be a single syllabus for each subject and everybody should sit the same examination.
Beyond 16 is the time to academically diversify, compulsory education should give everybody a solid grounding; even if they never read another word in their lives. Telling them they’ve ‘passed’ a meaningless exam helps nobody.