Time to bin the GCSE?

17th February 2012 at 00:00

Tony Little's call for GCSEs to be abolished ("A Little idea: replace GCSEs with a leaving certificate", 10 February) is to be welcomed by all those who care about young people's education and well-being.

Those who defend compulsory examinations for 14- to 16-year-olds often argue that young people learn valuable "life skills" in the process, but what does this actually mean? The average GCSE student sits a vast number of exams, in total silence, hour after hour and over weeks. Their work is sent off to an anonymous examiner and the marks are awarded with no feedback. Then, when the results are published, the whole country denigrates their achievements, claiming that they are valueless and dumbed-down. What skills are developed through this process?

But there is another way. The International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Programme allows schools to design curricula for the needs of their pupils: assessment is continuous, with no examinations, and moderated externally. The programme better prepares pupils for sixth-form study, has academic depth and, crucially, develops skills they will need in the real world. Instead of worrying about the next exam and chasing the highest grade, pupils can focus on what really matters: their learning.

David James, Director of IB, Wellington College.

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