22 Aug '14

News GCSEs are obsolete and have been for years. Lets scrap them | Peter Wilby

Governments can tinker all they like, but exams at 16 have no function in todays society its time to do the decent thingWe have just witnessed a peculiarly English annual ritual, as familiar as a wet bank holiday Monday. Teenagers, parents and teachers interrupt their summer holidays and congregate at schools to receive GCSE exam results. As they congratulate or commiserate each other, TV and press cameras capture the more photogenic and expressive teenagers. Mobiles ring, champagne corks pop. Anxious teachers calculate whether their pupils grades send their school up or down the league tables. Commentators, pundits, teachers unions and employers dissect the overall figures, lamenting, for example, the national catastrophe of a fall in entries to foreign language exams or (this year) science exams. Whether the results are up or down, someone somewhere detects falling standards.The GCSE is what is called a high-stakes exam, a distributor of life chances for young people, a verdict on parenting skills, and a determinant of teachers career prospects. Very few other countries have anything like it. In many, the age of 16 is not a full stop marking the end of a whole phase of education and often entailing a move to a new school or college, but just a semi-colon in upper-secondary education which runs from 14 or 15 to 18 or 19. Since we are constantly told (admittedly on somewhat dubious evidence) that our schools are behind internationally, perhaps we should look at what the allegedly more successful countries do. Like, say, Finland always near the top of the international league tables , where young people dont take a public, externally marked exam until 18. Or, for that matter, Scotland where a new system will delay formal exams until the end of the final, pre-university stage of schooling. Continue reading...

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