You may have seen reports recently in the press about scrapping GCSEs.
GCSEs were designed to show a standard of education at 16, consequently an assessment of a youngster’s capability for life beyond school. But now the school leaving age is 18 are GCSEs relevant? And do they equip youngsters with what they need for life after school?
Many have been asking that question for some time. And Mr Halfon who chairs the parliamentary education committee believes that GCSEs have had their day. Perhaps he isn’t the only one who thinks that.
Many parents have felt that much of the content of GCSEs is irrelevant and the workload is too overwhelming. And employers and Universities increasingly complain that, although youngsters come with these qualifications, they often are poorly equipped with skills like self-motivation, diverse thinking, or problem solving for example.
As the pressure to achieve more and more GCSE qualifications has risen over the years, all students’ time and energy has been consumed, inhibiting development of a broader education, skills-set, and the aspects of character that go with them.
However, every time there is a major upheaval to the examination system it creates such disruption to students and staff it is not always welcome, despite its flaws. At the present time the Department for Education says there are no plans to scrap them. But time may come when the real consideration is not that we should scrap them but what should be implemented in their place to suit the modern world.
Mr Halfon, speaking at the Edge Foundation, believes it would be better to replace them with something like an International Baccalureate which has a much broader emphasis on holistic education that develops creative and personal skills as well as academic achievements.
Perhaps the pressure on young people to concentrate on achieving a narrow set of academic qualifications at 16 to the exclusion of all else has become out of date as many claim.
For not only has this inhibited a broader personal development, it’s also been used by schools for another agenda; to show off resulting statistics in the competition for pupils and consequently funding – not a lot of help to the learners. It’s also created division between the haves and the have-nots in qualification terms, which is often dependent on location, not a reflection of the learner’s true ability. It would be hoped that a more inclusive baccalaureate would alter that.
It’s interesting to note that in contrast to the schooled community, most of whom are compelled to follow the usual route to 10 GCSEs at age 16, the home educating community has a variety of approaches to gaining qualifications and equipping themselves for Uni and work. Most do this through learner autonomy, personal study, without restrictions on age and time, often choosing a standard five required for Uni entry if that’s their goal. And they still succeed despite the competition with those who have a higher number of qualifications. It seems Unis and employers are looking for personality and self-motivation, as much as qualification.
So perhaps time has come to take some of the pressure off students to achieve high numbers of qualification at 16 and rethink GCSEs now the school leaving age has changed.