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The Daily Shame | October 4, 2015

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Michael Gove can’t decide what he wants. Maybe he should ask Yahoo Answers.

Michael Gove can’t decide what he wants. Maybe he should ask Yahoo Answers.

| On 08, Feb 2013

Hang on a minute…I thought Michael Gove had done a complete U-turn where his new and improved English Baccalaureate Certificates (EBC) exams were concerned…when it actually looks like he’s just going to turn GCSEs into those very exams he’s now rejecting.

You see…he wants to make our kids sit a proper exam…like we used to (well, like I used to).  They learn everything they need to know about a subject and then answer questions on it all.

The thing is…nobody seems to understand why Michael Gove would want to make them do this?  What’s wrong with the present system?  I mean…we all know how hard it is for kids to pass their GCSEs as it is.  God knows they’re working to full capacity as it is.

Now…don’t all get upset at once, but I think he’s got a point…and, before you completely dismiss Gove’s plans for a change in the way GCSEs are structured as ludicrous and unnecessary, you might want to find out what passing a GCSE really entails.

You see…most of our children’s school work is done on a computer.  Even homework is downloaded from the school’s computer network and emailed back when completed.

You think I’m kidding, don’t you?  Well…I’m not.

Most kids these days are given a netbook as soon as they enter secondary school so they can cut and paste from Wikipedia and spell-check to their hearts’ desire.  Don’t even get me started on the number of homophones that are in danger of being automatically swapped over, not to mention all the misplaced apostrophes.

And what does your child say when you question them?  “I think it’s safe to say the spell-check is better at spelling than you, mum!”

Well…if I was thick…yes.

However, I obviously AM thick because my children are taking some of their exams a year earlier than I could have done.  In my day (old person alert) anyone taking an exam a year early was seen as a child genius to be revered and called a boffin or a swot.   Nowadays, they’re all geniuses and I’m getting really hacked off at being told how upset I must be at realizing how poor my own education actually was.

Right…yes…I grant you…there are a few homework subjects where a piece of paper is present.  Only one piece of paper, mind, because we don’t want to be frivolous with paper products and, anyway, this one sheet of paper can be returned screwed up, scrawled across and covered in dog sick, as long as your child seems to understand what they’ve scribbled on it.

Does this A4 sheet arrive home in a file, folder or stuck into an exercise book?  No.  It takes its chances in the bottom of your child’s backpack sandwiched between a leaky bottle of Yazoo and an open packet of bright orange Wotsits.   Ugh!

Getting back to exams…

Did you know a large percentage of the final grade is often relative to coursework?  That means the work your child emails to their teacher via their super-duper spell-checking netbook is likely to be a huge part of their main GCSE exam.

Did you also know that, in most cases, more than one ‘module’ makes up the actual part of the exam that is actually ‘sat’…and pupils can ‘bank’ the marks they receive for the modules they pass.  If they’ve failed any modules, they can retake all of them together in an effort to pass them next time.

Even if they then fail a module they previously passed, it doesn’t matter…they’ve already ‘banked’ pass marks for that module.

However, if they do any better, they can replace the previously ‘banked’ pass marks with the new ones.  Similarly, if they pass the modules already failed, the marks from these will be ‘banked’ to complete a full set of passed modules.  <and breathe>

My God!  I’m surprised there isn’t an exam on sitting exams!  The subject is so bloody confusing…I definitely wouldn’t be sitting THAT one a year early.  Is it any wonder teachers get away with telling us what they want us to hear, when we can’t even work out what they’re trying to make us believe!

To compare…it’s worth noting some A-level exams are not completed in one sitting.  The pupil might study for a few months and then sit an exam on what they’ve been taught in that time.  This would happen, maybe, three times during the year.  They don’t have to retain any information for longer than a few months, but they DO have to ensure they’ve learned it all.  I’m fairly happy with that.

Unfortunately, though, and this is IMPORTANT to note, the A-level work, and resulting exams, prove much harder for kids to endure than the GCSEs they’ve already sailed through so confidently.  Some students are totally unprepared for the extra pressure and new attention to detail that’s required.

Even so, I wish I was doing exams now.  Imagine having Wikipedia and Google to help you pass your GCSEs.  Check out some of the questions asked on Yahoo Answers.  There are actually people out there who will very kindly and comprehensively answer questions that have so obviously been typed in exactly as they have been worded by a lecturer or teacher etc.

Come on, though.  The schools are bound to be on to that, aren’t they?  The completion of exam coursework is probably very well controlled and the children surely wouldn’t be able to cheat, as it were.

Let me tell you…children are encouraged to catch up on exam coursework in the comfort of their own homes and many parents may not even realize all the homework they see being bashed into their child’s netbook is actually part of a final GCSE exam.  Added to which, Amazon and eBay are crammed full of reasonably-priced text books that anybody can buy.  No longer are 15 and 16 year olds just stuck in a room for a couple of hours with nothing to reference but their own brains.  Neither are the 14 year old geniuses.

Incidentally…does anybody remember a time when exam papers were disregarded purely because they were scruffily written?  Do you remember being expected to structure each answer in a perfectly correct and legible manner with correct use of grammar?  Do you even remember when you had to rely on everything you’d remembered from previous years in the hope of being able to answer anything that was asked?

You do?

Then you must be as thick as I am.


  1. Darren

    For the record, I do written paper exams still. Two years ago I even sat a 5h long Economics exam.

    Then again, I’m in France.

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