Education prior to university: is the system fit for purpose?
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Saturday’s Today programme on BBC Radio 4 included amongst its items on current affairs the growing furore over whether the system used to assess pupils at GCSE and A-level is in need of an overhaul. Speaking against the present modular and part-coursework system, former Chief Inspector of Schools in England, Sir Chris Woodhead, described it as “not fit for purpose” and “so complicated that no-one is able to understand it.” He called on Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, to announce to the House of Commons on Monday that the system had to go, suggesting that it be replaced with exams taken at the end of each course. Woodhead also went a step further by calling for a reversion to a “simple[r]” system in which set percentages of examinees received each grade, thereby halting the so-called ‘grade-inflation’ that has sparked controversy year after year – most notably in 2012 by its conspicuous absence. Today’s students, it would seem, are blighted by an impossible catch-22 situation, in which their achievements – as indicated by increasingly higher grade attainments - are depreciated by claims of the ‘dumbing down’ of curricula, yet when this trend is halted there are accusations of disparity and unfairness across the system. Undoubtedly there is a degree of hypocrisy at work here, from which the aforementioned furore over the assessment system as it currently operates has resulted. Yet should this system be scrapped entirely?
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