Sunday, 17 February 2008

Parlez-vous Francais?

No, of course not. I have a GCSE in it!

In the latest instance of the lowering of British educational standards, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), the regulatory body for public examinations and qualifications, is set to recommend that the oral component of language GCSE examinations be
abolished. Since pupils can already pass GCSE French (the most commonly-studied language) without actually writing a word of French, this proposed reform will mean that the only skill that a GCSE in the subject will have tested via examination will be the ability to read the language.

Of course, this won't have any impact on the majority of schoolchildren, since languages have already become minority subjects under Labour. In 2003, the curriculum was altered to remove the requirement that pupils study at least one language to GCSE, and this change has already had significant results. Last year, only 48% of pupils pursued a GCSE in French, German, or Spanish, massively down from the 83% who studied one or more of those subjects in 2000. Perhaps the QCA is hoping that by making language GCSEs easier, they will reverse this trend.

The oral examinations that currently account for half of all available GCSE marks will be replaced by "continual assessment" by teachers. This method of assessment can hardly be regarded as objective, particularly when, as Buckingham University's Professor Alan Smithers points out, the teachers assessing the pupils will themselves be assessed on the basis of their pupils' achievements.
The QCA feels that the existing oral exams are "too stressful" for pupils. Well, it is true that exams generally tend to be stressful, although I can't see why oral exams should be any more stressful than written exams. But then, a great many important things in life involve stress. Indeed, I would suggest that learning to deal with stress was a significant incidental benefit attendant upon school exams. Apparently, though, the QCA would rather shield sixteen year-olds (hardly fragile infants!) from the real world, than employ the most effective means of assessing their performance.

Educational standards are in general decline. The increasing popularity of such unacademic new subjects as the infamous "media studies" is matched by the increasing easiness of the traditional subjects. Regrettably, the QCA appears to be more desirous of facilitating this trend, than of reversing it. The result will be the more of what we are already witnessing: better and better exam results, combined with less and less actual achievement.


Alex said...

Academic achievement in our Alice in Wonderland educational system is congruous with the verdict of the Dodo - everybody has won, and all must have prizes.

Anonymous said...

It is not in the interests of the ruling class, that the population should be well educated in any useful discipline. Therefore they have instituted a regime of ignorance, helplessness, and idiocy. If you developed a weapon to do this to any ethnic group, you would be executed for a crime against humanity. But so far they have only done it to white folk, so that's OK then.

jagwio said...

I have to agree with the anonymous poster. Except that the "white folk" i.e. the ruling class, are doing it to their own children (and everyone else's). In the US we have the ridiculous No Child Left Behind act which is taking away funding from the schools who need it most!