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Why can't we scrap the GCSE?

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by oscarthecat, Jan 6, 2012.

  1. I was recently told be A Person In Authority that 'the GCSE is a given'. I was also musing on the appallingly low level of language shown by someone who has gained a GCSE grade 'c', and that (usually) after 5 years of study. So, here's my question - why <u>can't</u> we just scrap the GCSE and eplace it with something more challenging, more exciting, more stimulating ... something less mind-numbingly boring? Come on - we are linguists (i.e. very bright people!). Surely we can come up with a better way of doing things? If you could have Michael Gove's attention for 5 minutes, what would you tell him about GCSE and MFL?
  2. jubilee

    jubilee Star commenter

    If they can't achieve better than a grade C after 5 years of studying an MFL, how are they going to cope with something more challenging?
    The requirements of the GCSE are not so bad; what's at issue is the 'teach to the test' mentality that sees pupils memorising (not understanding) chunks of language in order to meet the letter , not the spirit, of the assessment criteria.
  3. chriszwinter1

    chriszwinter1 New commenter

    The appallingly low level of language is a reflection of the raw material we have to work with and the attitudes to language learning displayed whenever we do try to increase the pace or use only the target language. Every development in mfl teaching and assessment has come about because of dissatisfaction with what has gone before.
    Have a look at the thread on Approaches and Methods
    for a very illuminating discussion on this topic.
  4. jubilee

    jubilee Star commenter

    The changes don't automatically result in improved linguistic competence though.
    I'm pretty certain that we produced more able linguists in the 1950s and 60s, when MFL was studied at O level by fewer pupils. We used the grammar/translation method and had thriving MFL departments at A level and at university.
  5. chriszwinter1

    chriszwinter1 New commenter

    No, they don't, and I don't think they're meant to. They're meant to increase results, which is not the same thing at all.
    The developments I was referring to have to take into consideration the changing needs of the school population over the last 50 years. As you point out, there were fewer pupils in the 1950s and 1960s. Since then we have been through periods of languages being offered to a wider range of ability, including all or nearly all. The dissatisfaction I mention isn't necessarily ours, but more of those in authority above us who claim that there are better results (not better subject competence) in other subjects and it therefore must be our fault as teachers that we cannot do the same.
  6. gsglover

    gsglover Occasional commenter

    It's a case of the devil you know I'm afraid. The low level of grade C performance doesn't worry me. Something new would probably lead to higher standards I agree but hardly anyone doing the subject when alternatives are so much easier(and perhaps more fun).
  7. chriszwinter1

    chriszwinter1 New commenter

    Like photography, dance and messing around on computers.
  8. tortuman

    tortuman New commenter

    It is quite refreshing to hear that. My husband in the 90s got a D in French, which look at it anyway you like, it´s a straight fail. He was ruled out as useless at languages, however managed to get a B (without studying at all) on a mock BBC test just 3 years ago. He said he didn´t understand it but he worked on what little French he remembered and using common sense as all the questions were based on information which was clearly using the same words in the tests. Very telling...
    I don´t think the problem is MFL alone. I teach privately all ages and it's quite interesting to see that the relation of lack of common sense and lack of general knowledge increases the younger the person. It could be influenced by the experience -age factor, but I also suspect that a change in contents throughout the eras may also have something to do. While older students seem to have a better grasp of English grammar and English vocabulary younger ones show a total lack of knowledge or interest in this. I am also surprised that most English teachers are "Literature teachers" rather than linguists, which can't really help much when it comes to understanding how the English language work and therefore help students with languages.
    The thing with GCSEs is that they are so touch and go that you can have students like I have, with an A at GCSE level in Spanish with very different levels. At one point I had a student who had got an A at GCSE level and literally could not string even the simplest sentence together, while the other student was able to actually hold conversations. Both students only learnt Spanish in school and neither of them had any family or anything like that in Spain, the only difference between them was that they attended different schools. One went to a local college while the other one went to a former grammar school... maybe there is something to say about learning rules, grammar and translation...

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