GCSE Reforms: What’s that about?
This summer saw the outcome of the first GCSE results after the implementation of the new GCSE exams and grading reforms which came in various forms, making many parents and students unhappy and confused. Changing grading, raising subject level difficulty in the curriculum by making students from the Foundation tiers learn topics usually reserved for higher set students are some of the controversial changes we are faced with. The changes for now have been focused on English language, English literature and Mathematics, however other subjects will follow suit in the next few years. A new grading scale of 9 to 1 instead of A – F has been implemented to supposedly allow for greater differentiation between students, as well as ensuring their exams are taken in one period at the end of their course. More information and details about the changes can be found on the GOV.UK webpage.
One of the key aims of the reforms, outlined in The Telegraph, was so that schools and the Department of Education could prove to employers and higher education institutes that the standards in secondary education are improving rather than worsening, which is a critique often highlighted regarding the UK education system. In addition, Nick Gibb, the schools minister argues in The Guardian that the drop in GCSE passes demonstrates that the reforms helped to raise the academic standards, which will allow for UK students to be competitive employees in our globalising world.
Previous System Cracks and New Stress
Although the new reforms are not welcomed by all, the previous system did have some cracks. For instance, schools were becoming content with maintain students at a pass, because that was all that counted. As a result, teachers focused on the children short of passing (D/C) and paid little attention to those in real difficulty or students who could have obtained As rather than plateauing at a B. In other words, mediocracy was the focus. The Telegraph concludes that it will take time for the students, parents and teachers to adapt to this new system and that these changes show a genuine attempt to improve the UK’s education system, trying their best to remedy the problems that have surfaced over the past decade.
As we can see, there are still many points of tension surrounding the GCSE reforms. Making them more rigorous has caused the pass rate to drop and has left many students in a state of turmoil. This increase in pressure surrounding the exams could lead to additional issues, such as encouraging teachers to teach to the test, which will move students further away from a creative and dynamic development.
For now, there is no easy solution. Exams are still a fundamental part of our education system, and GCSE students must figure out the best way to prepare for them. The rise of private tuition in London is the clearest indicator that students must find their own ways to excel in an academic system that is in a state of flux. It is up to the educators, reformers and politicians to acknowledge the current problems faced by previous cracks and new reforms, and think critically and deeply forward towards a better system for all students.
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