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Education fiddle faddle

(80 Posts)
Bags Thu 21-Jun-12 10:41:24


The Tory government introduced GCSEs in the 1980s.

Now they want to bring back 'O' levels.


Mamie Thu 21-Jun-12 10:45:44

And a lower level exam too. CSEs anyone? I do like the sound of only one exam board per subject though.

nanaej Thu 21-Jun-12 10:49:36

Try this interesting and clear ..well I think so...takes about 10 mins!

Lilygran Thu 21-Jun-12 10:59:53

Agree with heavy sigh! What no government ever does is ask itself what the system is FOR. Do we want as many kids as possible to leave school with a respectable-sounding set of 'qualifications'? Or do we want an exam that will winnow out some of them to undertake further education? And do I remember somebody saying introducing a competitive element among exam boards would drive up standards? Now, it seems, it's had the opposite effect. Who'd have thought it.

nanaej Thu 21-Jun-12 11:04:30

Hmm... does beg the question about competition and open markets generally... The argument for having a variety of types of schools is supposed to drive up standards.....

absentgrana Thu 21-Jun-12 11:17:54

There has also been talk about involving universities in the setting of exam papers, as if this is a revelatory new idea. MY O and A level exams (late 1960s) were set by London University; Oxford and Cambridge also had exam boards and there were probably others.

It seems to me that every Minister for Education wants to leave his or her mark on the system. Michael Gove has an absolute excess of looking to the past to decide the future – and his experience of education was a long time ago as a schoolboy not as a teacher.

AlisonMA Thu 21-Jun-12 11:21:52

Well in my limited experience I think O levels were harder. My DS1 was the guinea pig year for GCSEs and loads of his friends had 'coaching' which meant the tutor did the course work. Then when they got to A Levels they couldn't do it. My DS2 flatley refused to read Jane Eyre for EL, said it was a girls' book and still passed. When asked why he said "they give you a passage to read and comment on, didn't need to read the book". Maybe if he had read the book he would have got an A but it is worrying. DS3 had holiday work to do and I helped him put it into an Excel chart which was marked for his course work. Ever after he was seen as 'good at IT' (this was 15 years ago before all of them were good at IT).

Employers and universities are complaining that young people don't have the basic skills in English and Maths so maybe they could start with just those subjects and see how it goes?

Ariadne Thu 21-Jun-12 11:25:26

But everyone is an expert when it comes to teaching, as if being taught teaches one to teach.

I too sighed at the news this morning; when I began teaching it was "O" Levels and CSEs. Then, all the way through the spectrum, through to 100% course work, then less and less, the modular assessments adnauseam. And here were are, back where I started over 40 years ago. Progress, my a**e!

And Gove is a pillock. That is my informed and intellectual response.

Bags Thu 21-Jun-12 11:29:02

Seems to me that everything governments introduce to do with education and schooling is supposed to "drive up standards" and they all claim that their fiddling does just that. Meanwhile, as we have seen on GN many times, a lot of people think educational standards have fallen since they were at school confused

Bags Thu 21-Jun-12 11:29:51

ariadne, I love your educated and considered response grin and I agree.

nanaej Thu 21-Jun-12 11:35:33

If you have not looked at the link I posted I urge you to do explains well why exams really should not be set by university academics!

absentgrana Thu 21-Jun-12 11:35:56

I was reduced to helpless laughter when one of the criteria for "O level style" exams", designed to set higher standards, was that English Literature candidates would not be allowed to take their set texts with them into the exam room. I can remember wasting huge amounts of time learning great chunks of English literature off by heart, including the precise punctuation, just so that I could drop in quotes here and there in my essays. Frankly, if you haven't read the set texts before entering the exam room, you have little hope of passing even if they are there in front of you. I don't reckon that I could read a play by Shakespeare, a full-length novel and a collection of verse (that's what the syllabus included then) and answer questions on them in the three hours of the exam.

On the other hand, on one of my BA exam papers, I answered a question on comparing two poets – one of whom I knew little about having read only a couple of his poems. I knew a great deal about the other one and had read everything he wrote lots of times. That was one of my alpha papers, apparently.

nanaej Thu 21-Jun-12 11:54:36

It is all about how you define education.
For me education is about giving youngsters a set of core skills: to read to write to be numerate and then to teach them how those skills can help them learn to learn.

Being able to regurgitate another person's opinion on a question e.g What would happen to the story if Jane were beautiful instead of plain? Would it matter?
is not necessarily a sign of an educated person!

Kids being born today will be in the workplace in about 2037..what knowledge will be useful then? Definitely knowing how to learn but will it be helpful to know who was king of England in 1741? If we keep asking the old guard ( academics) to set knowledge expectations for the vanguard we are always going to be a step or two behind!

nanaej Thu 21-Jun-12 11:56:42

Oops in cutting and pasting I missed half my sentence ' Being able to regurgitate another person's opinion on a question about Jane Eyre

absentgrana Thu 21-Jun-12 12:06:42

nanaej I bow to your far greater knowledge and experience of the education system and fully agree with your comment about skills for learning to learn. However, I do not recall any O level questions (and we did lots of practice papers from previous years) along the lines of who was the king of England in 1741 or what would happen to the story if Jane were beautiful instead of plain, both of which strike me as fairly stupid.

nanaej Thu 21-Jun-12 12:19:07

The Jane question is from an old exam paper! The dates of rulers was something I was supposed to learn at secondary school and be able to quote in history essay tests and exams. I failed miserably! I agree both are stupid! My point was simply that knowing facts or learning chunks of exam useful quotes is probably not the set of skills useful for the future but this seems to be the way Mr Gove is pushing education.. & it is our grandchildren who will be competing on the world market for work!

MrsJamJam Thu 21-Jun-12 12:19:43

I had to learn big chunks of set texts in order to be able to use quotes in my O level exams. Later at University level, one of the range of English exams allowed the text to be taken in (without annotation!). IMHO, this did allow for more thought about the question to be answered, rather than just trying to find a way to use the particular quotes one has memorised. You have to know a text well to be able to find the right quote under exam conditions, so its of little use if you haven't previously read it a lot.

If texts are taken in, the examiners will be looking for detailed understanding, not just the ability to memorise a lot.

However, after 30+ years of teaching, I just wish the politicians would stop tinkering with the details and REALLY specify what they want the outcome to be; which surely has to be as much about personal qualities and abilities as it is about memorised knowledge.

So glad I am retired!

Ariadne Thu 21-Jun-12 12:21:29

Oh, MrsJamJam me too!

nanaej Thu 21-Jun-12 12:28:53

me too most of the time..but off next week to see about a p/t opportunity....

JessM Thu 21-Jun-12 12:36:58

Head in hands. I became a school governor 10 years ago because I was fed up with shouting at the politicians when they came on the radio and talked about their latest tinkerings.
I am giving up now, partly for that same reason.
Why on earth would ANYONE want to be a head of a school in challenging circumstances. You and your team bust a gut trying to reach the latest benchmark for "not failing". You try to devise a curriculum that will suit the kids. YOu recruit the staff to deliver it.
Then some idiot secretary of state comes along, pulls up the goal posts you she been aiming for and moves them to sides of the pitch and declares that you are playing the wrong game! Not soccer - but hockey instead folks. So time to start chasing off in another direction, fielding a different team.
(yes i know there is a mixed metaphor in the above)

Timescales on this latest madness made me gasp - in two years time they will have:
1. Merged all the exam boards into one
2. Completely redesigned the exam system and agreed how the assessment and grading will work. Sorry 2 new exam systems.
3. Written all the new syllabuses for all the subjects offered by this new exam boards
4. Presumably dumped the useful vocational Btec structure as well as A levels.
5. Done this in time for schools to write their timetables, done their "options" and recruited the right staff. Oops - no - options and timetables are not done at last minute. That gives them 18 months to complete the above.
Ah, but the election clock is ticking isn't it... and he wants something to crow about.
Really - it was difficult to recruit decent secondary heads 10 years ago. What with academy sponsors really p-ing some of them off and this kind of crazy policy change lurch metaphorically kicking them in the proverbials. Really angry
Only 2.5 years ago we were trying to prepare for the arrival of "diplomas" in 14-18 education. Including recruiting expensive staff to lead the initiative. An utterly different kind of restructure. But two years of prep and many years of consultation were dumped at the change of government.
Exit jess, stage left muttering with fury!

Mamie Thu 21-Jun-12 12:39:55

I still find it gobsmackingly amazing that the education "journalists" just report all this stuff. Where is the informed comment?
Brilliant description of Gove, Ariadne.

Bags Thu 21-Jun-12 12:46:18

I enjoyed watching the animation and listening to the presentation your link led me to, ej, but I think I would come to a different conclusion from it. I think it's saying politicians should stop tinkering with schooling and that it's time they employed some educationists to think things through. The presenter sounded to me as if he knew something of what he was talking about. Governments never do on this subject!

Mamie Thu 21-Jun-12 12:52:07

I think this is an interesting blog on the subject too.

nanaej Thu 21-Jun-12 13:17:38

Interesting mamie

I failed 11+ in 1961, got 4 average o levels & 2 good cse 1967, 2 ok A levels 1969, 1 Cert Ed 1971 and 1 Masters 1989. I was just a slow developer! grin

JessM Thu 21-Jun-12 13:35:57

Gove certifiably insane methinks. Pillock does not even touch it.