Charles Attwood Thomas

Views on Education

Published by Charles Thomas @ 2017-04-09 15:45:00.144513

As June draws near, year 11s across the country prepare themselves for the upcoming GCSE examinations. However, this year has been made more stressful by the addition of the new mathematics and English syllabi.

Initially conceived under Michael Gove, the new syllabi were designed to be harder and more challenging based on the belief that the previous courses were too easy. Whether or not this is the case is not the topic for this article, rather it will focus on the purpose of GCSEs and the grading system.

With the introduction of the new GCSEs, comes a new grading system which replaces the familiar A* to U with a new 9 to 1 system. It is based on a bell curve which means that only a certain percentage of students will achieve each grade. The new system also adds a 9 which serves as an “A**” grade accessible to only the best and brightest students. This new grading system has intensified stress on both students and staff - both feeling additional pressure to hit now what seem nearly impossible grades. However, this new system is still similar to its predecessor in that it pits students against each other and I wish to question why?

I am of the opinion that pitting students against each other serves no purpose. This stems from my belief that the purpose of a GCSE, especially mathematics and English, should be to give students a basic grasp of a subject. They can then either go on to further study or have sufficient knowledge to solve everyday problems and manage day to day living. I further propose that a better system would be to grade students by how many and which criteria of a specification they are able to achieve. Additionally, specifications would focus on real world applications as well as providing a basis for further study. While I will acknowledge that there would have to be a compromise between these two goals I believe a better solution could be found than that which we currently have.

Particularly, I would like to see Maths and English courses divided into two: a practical course which would focus on the knowledge of the subject needed for life and an extension course for those with a greater need or who derive a greater enjoyment from the subject. For example, a practical mathematics course I believe would include, among other topics, basic trigonometry needed for construction or engineering; rudimentary statistics to help people understand how statistics can be manipulated to present a viewpoint; and percentages which appear everywhere such as within retail. An English practical course would focus on ensuring everyone has basic reading and writing with sufficient knowledge of spelling and grammar, perhaps drawing inspiration from parts of the English Language syllabus. Part of my belief in this as a system comes from the government’s introduction (and then retraction) of the requirement of GCSE Maths and English for certain NVQ Level 3 courses. Personally, I fail to see how one’s ability to analyse Shakespeare, understand a 19th century extract, or solve a quadratic equation affects one’s ability to help our toddlers develop. Instead I would like to be reassured that they are able to spell and write coherently.

As well as a more practical based syllabus I would propose an alternative grading system which would divide each syllabi into a series of criteria all of which are tested in either exam, coursework or other methods and if you are able to fulfil (nearly) all of the criteria you will receive the top grade, if you fulfil most of the criteria then you get the next grade down so on and so forth. This would mean it would not matter if 90% of people all receive the top grade as it means they are all capable of the same actions.

In summary, I am of the opinion that while our education system is in many ways quite remarkable, it could still be improved and while I would consider my own views as positive amendments, it would be of much interest to me to hear alternative views.