Anorak News | A League Of Our Own

A League Of Our Own

by | 25th, August 2006

DOES anyone really understand education league tables? The Times publishes one.

This table deals with the results of this year’s GCSEs. Looking down the list of subjects we see lots of numbers and note the appearance of a GCSE in statistics.

We can debate into the small hours how it is that statistics have been deemed worthy of a GCSE while other parts of mathematics, like algebra, quadratic equations and sums are lumped together.

We can also wonder if Government league tables could form part of the greater statistics course? If so, perhaps scholars – of which 20.9 per cent of girls and 18.8 per cent of boys who took GCSE statistics this year achieved A or A* grades – would be able to help their parents and guardians understand what it is they have achieved.

GCSEs are losing credibility. As the Telegraph says, “The GCSE has come even closer this year to attaining the status of an examination that is impossible to fail.”

In total, 98.1 per cent of students who took a GCSE achieved a pass mark, and nearly a fifth of entries were awarded A* and A grades.

The paper quotes work by the Centre for Education and Employment Research. It found that since GCSEs replaced O-levels in 1988 “the proportion of A* and A grades had increased year on year from 8.6 per cent then to 19.1 per cent this year”.

Are pupils really getting brighter? Are they just getting better at taking and passing exams?

Or are students, as Jim Dobson, director of quality and standards at exam organiser Edexcel, says just taking exams more suited to their abilities? If you can’t pass English and maths, you can take a “softer” GCSE in physical education, drama or media studies?

Is this why fewer students are taking GCSEs in French and German? The Telegraph hears the National Union of Teachers (NUT) describe the decline of modern languages as a "complete disaster”.

The Times’s headline says: “Teachers call for a foreign language renaissance.”

The paper says that for the first time, the number of students taking German GCSE fell below 100,000 to 90,311. The number of students studying French fell by 13.2 per cent to 236,189.

The Telegraph’s leader is upset by this. The paper says, “Learning a language broadens the mind and, by a mirror effect, helps the student to a greater understanding of his or her native tongue.”

This is the “depressing impoverishment of our culture”. “There are compelling practical reasons for seeking mastery of a foreign language, whether they be advancing job prospects or facilitating travel for pleasure.”

There are. But surely now we are living in multicultural Britain, we speak more foreign languages than ever. And if we can be unified, Britons already posses the skills to succeed. And do not the need the GCSEs to prove it…

Posted: 25th, August 2006 | In: Uncategorized Comment | TrackBack | Permalink