Assessment – GCSE ?

I read with interest yesterday the report from Ofqual and the DfE about changes to the GCSE exams from September 2012. This appears to me to be a knee jerk reaction to the reports earlier in the week about teachers being told which questions will crop up on certain exam papers. Also interesting that these changes are short-term reforms. Elastoplasts and bandages for a failing idea? We need some new adventurous thinking and a look at what the World is doing not keeping tight to the strictures of ‘Fortress UK’.

It is interesting to look towards Finland where a nation of about 5.5 million people that does not start formal education until age 7 and scorns homework and testing until well into the teenage years … and who put high-quality teachers at the heart of Finland’s education success story.

What is interesting is how Nick Gibb et al has chosen to use the opportunity to tie up lots of political educational end. Gone are modular GCSEs and gone are the multiple re-sits – this is interesting as exams for the prestige things such as music and dance have the opposite view to this.

Nick Gibbs says: We want to break the constant treadmill of exams and retakes throughout students’ GCSE courses – school shouldn’t be a dreary trudge from one test to the next. Sitting and passing modules has become the be-all and end-all, instead of achieving a real, lasting understanding and love of a subject. Students shouldn’t be continually cramming to pass the next exam or re-sitting the same test again and again simply to boost their mark – then forgetting it all by moving onto the next module immediately.

Now this is good … I feel that everyone will sign up for this … but when we have an education system where points mean prizes how do you break away?

Which brings me to the question of why are we going back to what we had before and not moving on? Surely the technological advances mean that certain things could and should be tested/assessed in a more 21C way? The move from ‘paper and pencil’ to ‘electronic exams’ has long been a spurned holy grail and was discussed as far back (and probably further) in 2006. Where did all of this go?

And as if to confirm the ‘back to the future’ (or basics) stance : Students will be marked on the accuracy of spelling, punctuation and grammar and their use of specialist terms.

I agree totally on the necessity of using specialist terms ( was this not once called ‘key-word marking?) and am totally unsure how you can write about things in science, geography, law etc without using them – but spelling and grammar !!! …  English Literature, geography, history and religious studies. Five per cent of total marks in these subjects will be for spelling, punctuation and grammar.

So a bit like ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, diving or gymnastics there will be a gratuitous mark for ‘overall impression’ … 5% … I can really see students worrying over this.

Exciting times …

Attribution image: ‘Cuckoo; Cuculus canorus (juvenile)
http://www.flickr.com/photos/8289389@N04/4245954196

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