CHARLES GRAHAM - Is this the answer to ‘easy’ GCSEs?

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WELL, he’s gone and done it.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has committed himself to ditching the much-criticised GCSEs and replacing them with something more akin to the old O-levels, pithily called the English Baccalaureate Certificate.

If you thought there were unfair discrepancies between English exams marked in January and June this year, wait until you see the contrast between the results of future years and those from the current student crop.

That in itself shouldn’t matter so long as employers and higher education institutions make allowances for the sudden cliff-fall in marks after years of rapidly accumulating A* grades.

And like I said on a previous occasion, the current system did indeed need something of a shake-up, not so much because it was becoming increasingly difficult to identify the very top performers but also because I felt in places it was dealing too superficially with subjects.

I remember early on in my daughter’s two years of GCSE preparation, her telling me that she was about to read Frankenstein for the English literature course.

It started well with her writing an essay on the building-up of drama in the first few chapters and various other bits and pieces. Then the second term I asked her about the Mary Shelley classic again and she said “Oh, we’ve finished with that now.”

There had been no external exam on it, just assessed course work, and she hadn’t even been required to read the book to the end before moving on to another bite-sized piece of the syllabus.

There was no requirement for her to get the book really under her skin so she could be tested fully on it in another year and a half’s time and so by the time the first year of the course was done she had just about forgotten the little she had done.

I know memorising information for regurgitation’s sake is hardly an academic pinnacle in itself either and I should add that the schools are only doing their best with whatever is set the pupils.

But I do feel that a greater digestion of details and the ability to recall and apply them when necessary not only help to stretch the mind but also leave the student with a better knowledge base on which to build, whether it be for further education or life.

I am glad that the Lib-Dems have prevented Gove from splitting the new exams in a similar two-track way to O-levels and CSEs, but we will only know if the grievances over GCSEs have been answered once the results start rolling in.