As the English examination situation rumbles onwards, with the Welsh Education Minister attempting to deflect the poor standard of results in Wales by demanding the regrading of pupils, it becomes ever more apparent that education has lost it’s purpose.
As the Rt.Hon Michael Gove’s plans for a new examination are leaked to the Daily Mail and then quickly picked up by news services, we await to see the details but must already wonder about their direction when he appears to suggest that “top grades” will be rationed. This looks as if some form of “norm-referenced” grading will become effective.
Now, I understand that many people support this system but it is distinctly unfair. Under a norm-referenced grading system, widespread improvements to education standards will not be rewarded. Outcomes would improve, but their rewards would be withheld.
What is required are rigorous standards for examinations, carefully marked to the highest standards with criterion-based outcomes. It is entirely possible to create examinations that are not identifiably “expected” in the way that many Humanities examinations appear to have acquired a system of “rolling topics”…e.g. last year was X so this year will be Y.
But, at the basis of any educational change should be a clear intention and that appears to be missing.
Is the Rt.hon Michael Gove’s intention to create a series of examinations that test learning with the purpose of dividing pupils into those capable of higher education and those that or not? Or is the intention to create a skilled workforce for employers? Is it possible to do both under a single “umbrella” examination?
When one reads what skills employers demand (when they agree or refrain from their normally schizophrenic stance) a general certificate of schooling would suffice, rather than school-leavers having a range of examination passes. Generally, they demand a reasonable standard of literacy and numeracy along with “softer” skills such as team-work, adaptability, listening and creativity. None of latter can be examined by a system as forwarded by the Education Minister.
Does a system so clearly based around his early criteria for league table success, the English Baccalaureate, actually create a workforce skilled in the ways desired? Does the system appreciate a need for vocational qualifications and give them a form of acceptance? Does it want vocational qualifications to have any acknowledgement of viability even?
So, I ask in what direction is our education system aiming for?
Until it knows we’ll forever be looking for the next fix to a problem that can change almost daily.