Should GCSEs Be Scrapped?

student stressed by exam revision Back in February 2019, Robert Halfon, chairman of the Education Select Committee said GCSEs should be scrapped, describing them as "pointless", and mentioned that A-level should be replaced by a mix of academic and vocational subjects. However, the Department for Education disagrees with Halfon's statement and defended GCSEs as the "gold standard". So who's right?

The Case Against GCSEs

Speaking to the BBC, one teacher, Johnny from Hastings (he didn't want to give his full name), thought this was an "outstanding" idea: "This is an outstanding idea. I have been a secondary teacher for 10 years, and the relentless chase for GCSE grades has ruined our profession. I see colleagues suffering more and more burn out over an archaic system that serves no purpose in the modern era." In a report by TES, it found that the target-driven performance in schools was leading to mental health problems and causing a great deal of stress in teachers. What's more, many teachers feel that pupils are coming into schools to cram a lot of definitions and formulas into their memory banks, but not actually doing any explorative learning. "The problem is school is still very Victorian, someone stands at the front of the class and you have to sit and listen. There is no opportunity to explore how people learn or attempt made to pique someone's interest. I think the system is broken and there is far too much pressure on children nowadays to achieve academically when not everyone is that way," said Duncan (Another teach who spoke with the BBC). Halfon mentioned that young people are leaving schools without the necessary skills needed for work, while there is a growing number of complaints from industry leaders of a skills shortage. He also mentioned that the current system is failing to prepare young people for technological change. One teacher, named Paul, who moved to France, says their Baccalaureate system is much more superior. "We moved to France in order for them to have a better quality of life and that has happened. However, a by product has been the excellent education they have received. The Baccalaureate system is, in my opinion, far superior to the system in the UK. I am speaking as an ex-grammar school pupil," said Paul.

The Case For GCSEs

The case against this idea proposed by Halfon is that it would lead to complications for students applying to university. Students would no longer have grades to back up their UCAS applications. Plus, removing exams out of the equations until the students are 18, will give them little practice in taking exams. As mentioned, Halfon proposed to mix vocational training with academic qualification. However, when Andrew Halls, headteacher of King's College School, spoke with the BBC, said this was the wrong idea. "This country's record in vocational training is terrible, to muddle that up with an academic qualification is a complete disaster," said Halls. "A lot of money and thought needs to be put into vocational training. hey really need to stop fiddling and changing - and make things work." The final point against the idea of scrapping GCSEs is that this change would take a radical overhaul, and there would be a lot of resistance from both parents and official ministers.

Scrap GCSEs: Yes or No?

The potential in scrapping GCSEs will free teachers from the target-driven environment, and move to a learning environment that fosters curiosity and exploration: the intrinsic values of wanting to learn. But to scrap GCSEs all together will require a  complete overhaul of the education system. It is radical, and it will certainly bring shockwaves to schools who believe in the traditional teaching system. Thanks for reading. What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you think GCSEs should be scrapped? Please let us know in the comments section below.  

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