- Written by Anthony Bounds
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British educationalists have long since been confused about why today's schoolchildren do better in their GCSEs year after year. It could be, of course, that the twenty-first century pupil is smarter than ever, or that their teachers are more gifted than their predecessors? I am not so sure.
Image by: Kevin Rosseel, Washington DC
It is possible to argue that the reason that nearly everyone passes their GCSEs these days is because many students don't have to take exams at all. It follows that students grades, that are increasingly determined by continuous assessment, could be based on assignment work that is not entirely completed by the pupils. Just to be absolutely clear, GCSE assignment work may be done at home with the help of enthusiastic parents, or even, God forbid, in lessons by the teachers themselves. If GCSEs are about testing individual academic ability then the current system favouring continuous assessment has its risks, but, unfortunately, the alternative of relying heavily on examinations to help predict performance at university, is even worse.
Today, it has been revealed that the reason why GCSE 'O' and 'A' level results are so eye-wateringly brilliant every year, is not necessarily the result of an over-reliance on continuous assessment, or the rapid evolution of students twentieth-century brain-power, but because UK examination boards are tipping-off teachers about what will appear in the examination papers. What mealy-mouthed educationalists call "narrowing the syllabus".
So no, it is not so much dodgy teachers fiddling student’s course-work that is skewing GCSE results, but corruption within the UK examination boards themselves.
Why has this scandal not come to light before? Well, why would it? Everyone is happy with near guaranteed exam success. The teachers, whose jobs depend on performance, are happy. Managers are happy because they can tell their pay-masters in the government how clever they are for "raising" educational standards. Proud parents too dare not complain about a system that churns-out A*s like never before and, of course, the pupils are happy because they are yet to discover that they have been cheated out of a proper education.
As I say, everyone is happy. Well, everyone except those lecturing first-year undergraduates and employers who have to teach new recruits what they should have learnt at a school all over again.
Read more on corrupt UK examination boards
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