It has been announced by the UK government that a new standard of GCSE exams is to be introduced to replace the current failing system. Under the new proposals the current A* to C grade system is to be replaced by grades 8 to 1, where grade 8 represents the highest level of attainment and the equivalent to an A* grade, and 1 represents the equivalent of the current F and G grades.The government has suggested that the grade 8 grades must be given out to only the highest of achievers; around 3% of all candidates are expected to achieve this, which equates to 20,000 students.
The coalition government has changed its mind several times with regards the GCSE exam system, this seems to be the latest and arguably the last ditched attempt to save the GCSE exam system which has seen year on year more and more candidates passing the exam.
Subjects like Maths are particularly being targeted in an attempt to make the exams more robust and prepare students for the real world. Currently on the higher tier papers candidates are only required to get 18% to pass the exam. Steven Britton a tutor from the UK who offers maths tuition through his online tutoring agency the maths tutor online is appalled by this and welcomes attempts to improve standards. Steven claims that “It is an absolutely disgrace in my mind that in a developed country such as the UK that a student only requires the absolute minimum amount to pass an exam, this makes a complete mockery of our exam system”.It was a plan of the coalition to create a two tier system similar to the old system whereby students who are not academically inclined could opt out of GCSE exams altogether and take an easier option similar to the old CSEs. The GCSE system would then be replaced and called the O level, the same as it when it was called up until 1986 when GCSEs were introduced. It could be argued that this strategy would have worked had the government not done a u turn as students who weren’t interested in Shakespeare and Algebra could have pursued a vocational course in carpentry, plumbing or electronics.
So what of this new approach? Will increasing the difficulty of the current exams improve the situation or just create more losers? Only time will tell, but certainly it will seem that the less academically inclined will be the losers who will struggle to cope with the tougher exams.