(Note for non-British people: a GCSE is an exam that schoolchildren in England, Wales and Northern Ireland sit when they are 16 years old).
The Times reports that examiners have been told to make GCSEs easier:
Make science easier, examiners are told
Examiners will have to set easier questions in some GCSE science papers, under new rules seen by The Times. A document prepared by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), which represents awarding bodies across Britain, says that, from next year, exam papers should consist of 70 per cent “low-demand questions”, requiring simpler or multiple-choice answers. These currently make up just 55 per cent of the paper.
The move follows growing concern about the “dumbing down” of science teaching at GCSE and grade inflation of exam results, which critics claim is the result of a government drive to reverse the long-term decline in the number of pupils studying science.
Dr Sinclair [director of the JCQ] added that the changes would help to stop children being “turned off” by science.
“Part of the desire is that the student can come out of the exam with a feeling of success that they have actually tackled a significant proportion of the questions, and achieved the best grade expected,” he said. “The vast majority of candidates taking this exam are going to achieve grades D to G, and they deserve a positive experience of science. They can only have that by being allowed to attempt questions which are at their level . . . It is making exams accessible to candidates.”
So, there you have it. Exams must be made easier, so that thick kids can have a “positive experience”. We can’t shatter the fragile egos of the poor dears, now can we? It’s Alice in fucking Wonderland, where all have won, and all must have prizes.
At this point you may be thinking, “hang on, maybe the existing exams are very hard, and making them easier is the right thing to do.” Well, you’d be wrong. What follows are some questions from an actual CGSE exam (The Edexcel GCSE Physics P1b reference 5010 taken on 9 November 2006, to be precise). Before you look at the questions, please bear in mind that this is what the exam is like before the proposed dumbing-down:
Note that you need to understand nothing about physics to answer the question. The boxes could just as well have been labelled “pixies”, “goblins”, “dragons”, “elves”, “mermaids”, “satyrs” and “unicorns”, and it would have been exactly the same question.
????!!! I can only assume the examiners intended this as a spot of light relief. Again, no physics knowledge required here.
Before you accuse me of just picking the easy questions, this one is from the difficult part of the exam. As with the other questions, it requires no knowledge of physics whatsoever to answer.
(The actual exam is here (1 MB pdf))
Personally I have an exam I’d like to set the people responsible for this atrocity. It would contain the following questions:
1. Are you ashamed of the damage you’ve done to British education?
2. Do you really believe that Britain can be competitive in the 21st century if the system is producing dumbed down children only capable of passing dumbed down exams?
3. Do you think that patronising less-able pupils, by giving them a pretend exam to pass and a worthless pretend certificate when they’ve passed it, helps them or anyone else?