GCSE results this year have revealed the greatest ‘year-on-year decline‘ in the number of A*-C grades since 2008, when the notoriously difficult O-Levels were replaced.
The percentage of A* – C grades obtained at GCSE level has fallen sharply from 69% to 66.9% and the number of A* grades has diminished, slipping from 6.6% to 6.5% since last year, a report from the BBC claims.
The Evening Standard chose to focus on the augmented gender gap, pertaining to the fact that only 62.4% of boys are getting a C grade or above compared to 71.3% of girls, and that 7.9% of girls compared to 5% of boys are receiving A* grades.
The Guardian however placed the onus on the number of students sitting Maths and English due to the policy instated last year which forced 17 year olds who achieved a D grade in their Maths or English GCSEs to retake those exams. Mark Dawe, former head of the OCR exam board and chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, abrogated the retaking of core subjects if a D grade was achieved because it has lead to lower results at GCSE. He states that:
“Maths and English are the most vital skills for economic and social mobility but these results show that repeating the same exercise doesn’t work.”
The downfall of GCSE results comes as no surprise due to the government’s vow to create competition for Asia’s (especially South Korea’s) highly intellectual contingent of teenagers after speculation that there may be signs of ‘grade inflation‘ in GCSEs leading to easier exams for teenagers.
Whilst Great Britain’s GCSE exams are considered to be all encompassing, serving even the most challenged individuals by integrating simple questions such as, “solve: 4𝒙 = 20” in maths papers, they do not implement the sort of questions that Asian exam bodies incorporate which challenge students and drive the level of education to a higher tier. Ofqual (the Office of Qualifications and Exam Regulation) issued a study which tested the GCSE against other foreign exam bodies. The study found that through the addition of a multitude of questions varying in difficulty, the GCSE ‘distinguishes the ability of children at the very bottom of the attainment spectrum and children at the top’.
The BBC reports that the propensity of the GCSE to ‘dumb down‘ a subject has led critics to call for a more difficult exam procedure, especially as foreign exam bodies are demanding more from their students and in turn, receiving better overall results. But it could prove to be a failing of the current government to succumb to the pressure of foreign exam results because, whereas South Korea, the country leading educational tables in Maths and Reading ability has impressive results on paper, there is little practical element to the exam questions they implement and thusly, Korean students struggle to conjoin practice and Mathematics, according to a report from the Korea Times.
The government have suggested on their webpage that because the percentage of students taking GCSEs early has dropped by 28% since last year, students are better prepared for their exams. They also mention that the increase in students taking Religious Studies, previously a GCSE which was taken early, is leading to a ‘broad and rounded education’.
It is thought that the rigorous new testing procedure called Progress 8 will shed some light on the areas that need focusing on at GCSE level, hopefully reshaping the current scheme that is in place.