The pressures and contradictions that young people now face when they take their examinations have indeed become ‘irreconcilable’ and ‘unsustainable’ – as Russell Hobby of the National Association of Headteachers told The Guardian (21/08/13).
The education system is now increasingly like trying to run up a downwards escalator where you have to work harder and harder simply to stand still.
Also, facing an uncertain future, those youngsters that can, will want to focus on qualifications identified as ‘high status’ by governments and top universities –while schools, worried about the next Ofsted visit will always encourage them to do so, including entering them early, or for more than one exam board.
As a result, ‘tougher’ GCSEs (and ‘tougher’ A-levels for that matter) can only be made ‘tougher still’ — regardless of whether the standard of work by students continues to rise – so as to ensure high status qualifications remain just that.
Rather than looking for ‘stability’ by entering students for’ international’ tests; the qualification system can only be reformed by stopping the escalator itself. Why put youngsters through the current GCSE ordeal, when most will remain in full-time education anyway? Why not a general diploma at 18, which all can aspire to and which provides both a mandatory entitlement while allowing specialisation as students get older?
With the examination system in danger of being in permanent crisis, there couldn’t be a better opportunity.