Tuesday, 27 August 2013

GCSEs - Are they still worth it?

Last week saw students receive their GCSE results, a couple of weeks ago it was A-Level results being received.

The daughter of an ex-colleague of mine was awarded 12 GCSEs, a mixture of B, A and A* grades and I know that she worked hard for these so well done to her, and well done to everyone else who achieved the grades they wanted/needed.

But it got me thinking, 12 GCSEs?  For those old enough to remember them, can anyone imagine having the physical ability, never mind mental ability, to have sat 12 O-Levels?  Most exams were two and half to three hours long and some subjects had two or more exams to sit, for example my Home Economics O-Level consisted of three separate sittings which combined to give the grade of a single O-Level.

To sit 12 O-Levels you could be looking at 40 hours of exams which would be a nightmare to even timetable, let alone study for and sit.

I attended an independent fee-charging grammar school where we were considered to be more intelligent than secondary school attendees (not necessarily always the case, it just meant that some parents were richer and could buy their way in, thanks to my entry exam scores, I was granted a bursary due to my family's low income) and the maximum number of O-Levels we were allowed to sit was 9. 

O-Levels did not have coursework either, apart from a few very rare exceptions, CDT being the only one I can think of, the grade was purely based on the exam(s) for the subject.  I received 4 Bs, 3 Cs, 1 D and 1 E.  At the time this was classed as 7 passes and 2 fails as anything less than a grade C was considered as not passing, these days I am guessing this would be classed as 9 passes as none of them were graded U.

Before writing this post I sat an online mock GCSE maths exam, without using a calculator I scored 81%, yes I could have done better, but I am pretty sure that this score would have been more than enough to pass. 

The list of subjects is far longer for GCSE than it was for O-Level, I stopped counting at 50, I think at my school there were 20 at the most.  Now you can sit 1 or 2 English exams, we HAD to sit 2, Chemistry, Physics and Biology were 3 separate subjects, now they can be combined to just 1 (you can still sit this as separate exams but I guess the majority of students will sit them as 1).

PE was something we had to do every week, in fact 4 of the 45 weekly periods were devoted to PE (groan) but I don't recall being able to take an exam in it (I may be wrong, I may just be trying to block the memory).

I do think we need a shake up in the education system and I have my own ideas of how this should be done, but my ideas should probably remain in my head!

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