GCSE with Chinese Characteristics (East Asian Illusions Part 2)

11 (2)Ofqual justifies the latest reforms to GCSE in terms of needing to peg grades against those achieved in China and other East Asian countries, even if making these ‘incomparable comparisons’ raises as many questions as they provide answers and continues to ignore an array of other reasons for the staggering economic performance of these countries.   (http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/apr/02/tougher-marking-gcses-peg-grades-chinese-students-results)

 But the real illusion touted by Secretary of State Michael Gove, continues to be that the huge improvements in grades achieved in recent years can only be explained by exams becoming too easy and thus generating ‘grade inflation’ – in otherwords the efforts of young people, having to work more and more, but getting back less and less as opportunities decline and of their teachers, forced to continually ‘improve’ and meet constantly changing targets are given no recognition whatsoever.

The new numerical grading system is not just another annoying change, although the last thing young people, most of who now stay on in full-time education till 18, need are more grades at 16.  An A** (grade 1) has been added which only half of current A* achievers will obtain and the new ‘midpoint’ grade 5, will be set much higher than the current grade C and will supposedly equate with ‘international’ standards. We should remember that one of the main intentions behind the E-Bacc Certificates announced in 2012 was the hiking up of different grade requirements. Despite Gove being forced to U-turn, this objective has continued to be pursued in the new GCSEs.

The real issue for Gove and the Coalition continues to be that too many young people succeed in education; but that this success no longer leads to success in the job market or even ensures a place at the university of your choice –thus education increasingly becomes ‘dysfunctional’. It’s disappointing that the momentum behind the E-bacc has not been able to continue and that potentially irreversible changes are now being made to public examinations.




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