What do you do when someone with whom you basically disagree, says something sensible? Michael Gove has placed me in this situation three times now.
Firstly he abolished the Qualifications and Curriculum development Authority (QCDA). Secondly he pointed out at that school IT lessons are at best uninspiring. And now he has gone and acknowledged that our system of competitive exam boards has driven down GCSE standards.
You may not have noticed this because he also called for GCSEs to be replaced with ‘O’levels. I sympathise with his motivation – to raise the bar for the most academically able pupils – but I think he is wrong on this. It would be enormously disruptive, enormously divisive, and there is actually nothing inherently wrong with GCSEs.
“We want to tackle the culture of competitive dumbing-down, by making sure that exam boards cannot compete with each other on the basis of how easy their exams are”
Gove is correct that the exam board/publisher conglomerates have driven down standards. These conglomerates consist of a not-for-profit exam board, and a large publisher who tunes their (very profitable) books to optimise pass rates with their own particular board’s exams. Additionally the scope of the GCSE syllabus has been aggressively reduced.
As a result GCSEs have come almost useless. Despite the obsession with passing the exams, the results have lost their meaning. They do not discriminate amongst the most able students, and the pass level is so abysmally low that a level ‘C’ no longer indicates a significant achievement. This is a national disgrace and Gove is absolutely correct to name it
The BBC also report protestations from Exam Boards. I have no sympathy. They have spent the last two decades driving down standards in this almost corrupt manner, while generating massive profits for their partner publishing companies. I look forward to their abolition. Publishers should publish books, not exams.
Tags: Michael Gove