O’Levels + CSE + GCSE + EBacc = ??

Looking at the title you may well ask yourself  “what is the answer?”.   Well it’s a good question.  Apparently the government have the answer, even though successive governments keep changing the education system. 

I suspect that most Silversurfers members reading this will probably have done the 11+ examination at point in their education time.   I always felt this was a bit unfair and unrealistic, making children so young take an exam, which I suspect few understood the ramifications of, the results of which would affect you and your education and subsequent career for the rest of your life. Many of you will also have taken CSE’s or O’Levels in the 60’s and 70s which I believe really only tested how good your memory was and how good you were at exam technique.

At my Comprehensive school in Surrey in the early 1970’s, we were taught the subjects for two years, and then had to take the examinations which lasted about an hour each. Friends of mine who went to a nearby Grammar school, were not only taught the subjects but had hours revising previous papers so they understood the possible questions and exam techniques. Understandably their pass rates in Grammar school were a lot higher than in our Comprehensive. 

The new system of GCSE’s was introduced in the late 1980s whereby pupils were continually assessed over the 2 years and then at 16 had a final exam. Both the assessments and the exam results went towards the GCSE mark and seemed a lot fairer and a true test of a students overall ability, rather than O’Levels. Our three children and all their friends benefited from this and I think most children did. It meant that pupils had to keep on top of work and continually learn it. The problem seems to have been every year the marks got continually better in the UK and certain people voiced concern that the GCSE’s were too easy. Maybe the education was just better and kids were smarter; that was my view!

It is also my view that studying for two years and only having a 2 hours exam at the end of it is just not an effective way of evaluating a students knowledge. What if you have hayfever, dont feel well or are having an “off day”. Now the government in its wisdom has said its scrapping GCSE’s in England and it will be replaced in core subjects like English, Maths and Science by a new qualification called the English Baccalaureate Certificate, (EBacc) which will be introduced from 2015. So our grandchildren will probably be taking this, and it will be different from the GCSE’s and very similar to O’Levels in that it will mean a single end of course exam and only one exam board for core subjects.  Mr Gove, the Education Secretary said the GCSE’s were designed “for a different age and a different world”. He added the changes would modernise the system “so we can have truly rigorous exams, competitive with the best in the world, and making opportunity more equal for every child”. To confuse matters Leighton Andrews who is the Education Minister in Wales said the new EBaccs were a “backwards step” and added that Wales may keep the current GCSEs.

It seems like our grandchildren will be going back to O’Levels again.  Confused? What is your view? 

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Martin Lock has a wealth of experience both in the Airline and Travel Industries

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Pat Paterson
20th Sep 2012
Thanks for voting!
Everyone is different,but we need people with all abilities,those with common sense and practical skills.if everyone was an achedemic who would do all the other jobs?.comprehensive education offers the best solution where students can excel in their best subjects taken over a two year period,and not based on a good memory on an exam taken on the day.The G.C.S.E. exams work so why change the system. It takes many years to establish a new system and the student guinea pigs are the ones that miss out. I know I have been there and it takes years for new ideas to be properly accepted.Qualifications need to to be recognised by employers, going back to O level exams is a regressive step, but comes from someone who had a privileged education. it would be nice if this was available to all.Also smaller schools and smaller class sizes..
19th Sep 2012
Thanks for voting!
This comment came from our Facebook page, and I thought it was worthy of a share here, as it is very interesting.

From Angela Mumford:" I studied Education at University and was one of those "experts who say", and one of the things I did not agree with was the necessity to fail some people in order to keep the statistics in line. If the results are skewed in one direction, they have to be manipulated to bring them back in line with expectations, for example if three people tie for top marks, only one can be top, the other two are second and third. The whole marking system is dishonest and really is a lottery. It also depends on how many places are available for higher education, which of course uses the same statistical marking method. I discovered if you got a low grade in the first term exam, you were more likely to get low grades all through... not because your work was poor but because that was how you had been graded...."

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