17 November, 2013

Changes to GCSEs

The government recently announced changes to the GCSE examinations in England -- the biggest overhaul "for a generation", to coin their words.

Some of the basic changes are as follows:
  • A new grading system based on numbers (1-9) rather than the current system based on letters (A*-G).
  • Modular assessments to be replaced by full exams taken at the end of the two years of study.
  • In English literature students will study texts in detail and these will include high-quality works by authors such as Shakespeare and the Romantic poets.
  • There will be more marks awarded for spelling, punctuation and grammar.
  • The new maths exam will cover more topics and be more challenging.
For those of us who took the old O' level exams at sixteen--over "a generation" ago, I suppose--these changes sound very familiar. O' levels had no course work whatsoever and one final exam was taken for each subject at the end of the two years of study. Correct spelling, grammar and punctuation were regarded as very important and marks awarded accordingly. Some of the maths questions that were set in the O' level exam were genuinely hard, even for those people who were good mathematicians. And we certainly studied "high-quality" literature--always a Shakespeare play and a selection of other classics. In fact, I wonder what English literature is all about if students don't study (at least some) "high-quality" texts.

So, it's not so much a major change to GCSEs, rather a major reversion to the old system of a generation ago. Plus รงa change...

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