The challenge of exam reform

We start this week by looking at the next major challenge facing education today; exam reform.

With the new, harder GCSEs in English and maths starting this term and remaining subjects to follow in the next year or two, we could be facing a period of exam controversy after exam controversy.

A-levels and GCSE’s are now tougher and more rigorous as the government attempts to raise standards, setting pupils the target to achieve the same academic levels met in high performing countries such as those in the Far East.

And as top grades at GCSE level become harder to obtain, concerns over the impact of this change on pupils is growing.

It is feared the de-coupling of A and AS levels will have a negative impact on less confident students for whom ‘bagging’ an AS in their first year of sixth form was a motivation to further success at an A-level in their second year.

Top of the concern list is the effect increased exam stress is having on teenage mental health. The NSPCC has seen a 200% increase talking about exam stress in counselling sessions as they feel the pressure to over perform.

This is closely followed by a term that has been around for a long time, ‘educational reductionism’. Could exam reform reduce schooling to a bare minimum approach where only a few core subjects are taught for a quick and easy solution to the complex problem that is tougher examinations? In short would schools go backwards to move forwards under the new exam systems.