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Is it time to scrap GCSE English language?

Discussion in 'Education news' started by TES_Rosaline, Sep 11, 2019.

  1. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    Critics say the current GCSE English language qualification is not fit for purpose and is part of a system that is ‘designed to ‘fail’ one-third of young people every year’. But are you convinced that a new qualification is needed to better represent the English skills students gain?

    ‘GCSE English language is not "fit for purpose" and should be replaced with a new qualification that better assesses pupils’ language skills, according to a new report.

    The report of the Commission of Inquiry, set up by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), says that GCSE English Language is too focused on literary analysis and sidelines pupils’ skills in spoken language.

    And it wants to see GCSE English replaced by a "Passport in English" that assesses a range of skills. It adds that a companion "Passport in Maths" should also be considered.’

  2. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    I don't know. The GCSE assesses some skills in understanding and creating written English.
    If we assess more skills some people will grumble about assessment overload including people where I work because we have vulnerable children who can't cope with stress.
    Having said that, the needs of the many should not be governed by the problems of my learners.
    A "Passport for English" might be good . It might have elements in common with functional skills. What I do know is that if pass rates rise, those who work with more fortunate children will grumble about "dumbing down".
    The Daily Beast will publish the easiest question and thunder "LOOK AT HOW EASY IT IS NOW. BRING BACK O LEVELS ".
  3. sabram86

    sabram86 Occasional commenter

    I'm not sure that reinventing the wheel again would help anyone. GCSE English works for most people and it is the social standard for essential skills in the written language. If you move the goalposts, then the new standard will simply alter to reflect that reality. The Passport, or whatever modish name it takes, will be inferior to English literature, etc. It'd be more fruitful to deal with the lack of reading among many young people and adults.
  4. gainly

    gainly Lead commenter

    I don't really know anything about GCSE English (I teach maths and science) but yes the current system is designed to fail about one third of students. After more than 20 years of grade inflation, Gove put a stop to it in 2010. Since then the percentage of students getting each grade is pretty much constant from year to year, which is how it used to be before GCSEs were introduced. So, unless there is a change of government policy, about a third of students will continue to get below a grade 4. I don't see anything wrong with that, there is no point in an exam which everyone passes.

    I think the problem is forcing those who don't get a grade 4 in English or maths to repeat the exam until they do. Some near the borderline might fluke a pass next time, but they are not actually going to improve. They will just hate the subject even more.

    Incidentally when GCSEs were introduced it was intended that every grade from A to G would be a pass. A grade C was originally meant to be equivalent to an old O level pass and it was expected that about 25% of the cohort would get grade C or above. It was never intended that grades below C (now grade 4) would be a fail.
  5. CalypsoDalma

    CalypsoDalma New commenter

    I agree with those who perceive the new GCSE English Language as 'too literature based.' I also feel that the syllabus and analytical skills required for the higher grades are too advanced for GCSE level.

    I'm not adverse to change when it's necessary and suitable, but, in my opinion, the old GCSE syllabus and grading system were far more appropriate and fair. Precocious students requiring 'more of a challenge' can always be entered early for GCSEs and A Levels.
    alexmurraybrown likes this.
  6. PeterQuint

    PeterQuint Lead commenter

    Surely, the whole concept should be parked.

    We should aim for ALL students to leave with a qualification showing basic literacy, numeracy and IT skills.

    Then, if you want a GCSE in English, maths or computing you can opt for it, much like you opt for drama or graphics.
    alexmurraybrown likes this.
  7. sabram86

    sabram86 Occasional commenter

    Oh dear. More dreams about helping 'every student' despite the sheer, hard and cold brutality of laziness, stupidity and the tragic aspect of life. You cannot build utopia.

    It suffices to have English qualifications that introduce pupils to the literary Canon and which test their ability to read and write in Standard English. If they cannot do these things to an acceptable level, they should fail. The qualifications seem to do this tolerably well.

    Enough with teachers' ego trips and messiah complexes.
  8. PeterQuint

    PeterQuint Lead commenter

    Complete tosh.

    Education has several different jobs, not one.

    When we teach people how to drive, and have a driving test, the idea is that eventually almost everyone passes. It’s nit a test to see who’s the best driver, or measure one against the other, but to ensure everyone with a licence comes up to a minimum standard.

    Whilst education is about much more than just training people up for work/society, that is one part of what it’s about.

    We need not just a workforce, but citizens capable of accessing society. That involves everyone but the least able being able to read, write, do sums, and find their way around word, excel, and so on.

    This should be one of our aims. I’m not talking about everyone passing a GCSE in any related subject, I’m talking about basic skills.
  9. sabram86

    sabram86 Occasional commenter

    Why should something as important as reading literature and learning to write well cater primarily for the needs of the least able? Basic and functional skills qualifications already exist and they are not worth much and I doubt they ever will be.

    It would be better to focus efforts on having more reading and comprehension throughout schooling, rather than having worthless tests for when it has all failed. The approach I suggest is the one taken by Michaela and its results have been remarkable.
  10. PeterQuint

    PeterQuint Lead commenter

    You’re getting yourself confused.

    These qualifications exist, but aren’t worth much because few employers know about them, they’re not compulsory, and most will look at GCSE English and maths.

    If everyone were set a benchmark of basic skills and expected to get that qualification as a minimum, all of that would change.

    Why would enjoying literature change? Why is it catering for the least able?

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