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Exam marking – an A is no use to anyone!

by Barry

In the past few days there has been uproar about the way the GCSE exam has been marked.  

Icon from Nuvola icon theme for KDE 3.x.

Icon from Nuvola icon theme for KDE 3.x. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think the way the pass marks have been fiddled in this academic year is unfair and should not have happened.  That said, I do agree that something needs to change because an A is great for a pupil, but is of no use to an employer trying to fill a role, or for the next educational establishment in choosing the most appropriate student for the course.  But do it for the proper year and be open and honest about it.

We have to go back and really look at why we have exams, in reality they are a method that employers and others can compare two people and have a common way of comparing them.  It’s not just employers, but the next step in the education journey, it allows students to be selected, and the most appropriately qualified to fill the limited spaces or job roles.

This is also why the method of examination is also important, just a pure traditional exam isn’t good enough, having coursework is crucial too because it shows a different way of working and tests a breadth of skills.

The big issue here is what an A grade means.  It is the target for how schools are funded, it is the target for Authorities and the personal target for pupils.  So many government and Schools would quite rightly kick back to things being made harder and threaten the high pass mark, because they will get judged differently.  But we have the priority all wrong, UK PLC needs exam results to differentiate between applicants and to be able to choose the best for their role and that is the true target.  If everyone gets the same grade, then how does that help?  We need to realise that a C should be the average mark, not an A!

Also, don’t forget that a better grade spectrum will highlight who is truly academically gifted, and those who would get more out of a more vocational approach.  Study isn’t for everyone and we should actually recognise this rather than just talk about it.  More vocation based training at secondary school would be hugely beneficial!

Anyway, that’s my rant, yes change the examination system, make it more challenging to get a range of grades.  But by the same token, don’t penalise the schools for it!  Lets keep our eye on the prize and that isn’t a Certificate with an A on it, it is progression in the right direction for the pupil and the ability to choose the right person for a role for an employer!

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1 comment

Richard Bard August 25, 2012 - 1:02 pm

Every flippin’ year, in fact several times a year, this news story appears. It’s nonsensical, nothing is proved or disproved by a small percentage rise or fall in students results.

So many factors can affect the results – student ability, teaching quality, exam setting, exam marking, political interference, the environment, the weather, the economy, in fact anything that could divert the students’ minds from their studies during the year or during the exam. Every year we get interested parties telling us whose fault it is (not theirs, obviously) & who should be sacked.

Is the way all results come out on the same day a deliberate attempt to make a news story? If so, stop it! When I took exams (with my chalk & slate) the results were posted to my home, we all received them at different times & no-one rushed to school to jump up & down with their friends.

Exam results are a “guide” to someones ability & aptitude, whether each result is an A or a B is not important. Some people are good at exams, some aren’t. Some people shine at school some don’t. Whether you get an A or a B just shouldn’t be that important, for the student, for their school, for the government of the day or anyone else. It’s the whole person who comes out the end of the system that matters.


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