I can’t quite decide what I think of today’s news that, in England at least, GCSEs are to be replaced by an English Baccalaureate. I can see some good points in what is proposed, but I do wish that the Government (indeed, governments of all political hues) would stop messing around with education.
I do know what I think about the hiatus following the apparent tightening of the marking of GCSE papers in the summer. I feel very sorry for those who had expected a Grade C in English, only to be awarded a D. And, again, I wish they would stop messing around (it really doesn’t seem fair that our public examinations – at least in some sense – got easier and are now getting more difficult again). However, the awarding of grades on the basis of assessment is not, and never has been, an exact science. Markers are not consistent; difficult students react in different ways to different exam papers; we all have bad days and good days. So are exams ever fair? No, really and truly, they’re not.
That in itself is not the real problem – we accept that whether or not one passes one’s driving test on a particular day is largely in the lap of the gods. The cause of the difficulty is the perception that academic exams are reliable and consistent; that students who get a grade C in one set of circumstances, would also get a grade C on a different day with a different paper and a different person marking it. That’s just not true.