Education Secretary Michael Gove: (Quote) “We believe it’s time for the race to the bottom to end. We believe, that it is time to tackle grade inflation, and dumbing down. And we believe that it is time to raise aspirations and to restore rigour to our examinations. Today marks the next stage in radical exam reform. It will equip children for the 21st century, and allow us to compete with the best performing nations.” (End of quote)
A new examination to replace GCSEs in England will “increase rigour and confidence” in the system, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says.
What do the critics say?
Quite simply, as you can imagine, there is another point of view, a more critical one. In a nutshell, the critics say that instead of improving the education system, it will actually damage it.
One notable critical voice, among many, is John Bangs, who is an honorary visiting fellow at Cambridge University. According to Bangs, “Internationally, there is no correlation between this type of reform and countries with outstanding education systems.”
Who is right?
One way of shedding some light on that question is by looking at the system the proposed Govian English Baccalaureate (EBacc) is seeking to emulate, the International Baccalaureate.
Results from the 2012 International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme examination session were issued 05/06/2012, with over 119,000 students across the world receiving their diplomas or course results, an increase of over 8,000 from 2011.
On average, Diploma students scored 29.83 with only 109 achieving the maximum score of 45 points.
Carolyn Adams, Chief Assessment Officer at the International Baccalaureate adds: “We are very pleased with the exam results that have been achieved across the globe. We believe it is essential that students, teachers and universities have confidence in a robust qualification, which offers an internationally benchmarked standard against which to judge success.”
Pass rates for 2012 are 78.16%, and have remained stable over the past five years:
May 2008 79.02%
May 2009 78.71%
May 2010 78.06%
May 2011 77.75%
May 2012 78.16%
To conclude, I ask the obvious question: Why not leave the GCSE exam system in place, but make the International Baccalaureate available as a viable alternative, alongside the GCSE?
Frankly, the International Baccalaureate, in its current form, is superior to the English Baccalaureate system that is being proposed, in terms of rigour, and more importantly, global recognition.
The International Baccalaureate has a more than 40 year history of providing a rigorous, high-quality education. Independent researchers have reached the conclusion that if the IB were a country, it would be the number one education system in the world, ahead of Finland, ahead of Singapore, ahead of Korea. With over 900,000 students in 140 countries, the IB is worthy of such high praise, by all means, regardless of the method you would choose to employ in order to aggregate or disaggregate the quantitative data in proving it.
Finally, can the current GCSE exams continue in its current form? That’s one question that everyone is in agreement on.
No, it can’t, and it won’t…
The global search for high-quality education, embedded in high-performing education systems, has taken on mythical proportions, almost resembling the alchemists’ quest to turn common metals into gold.
It is my hope that the present day search for global education, equitable and providing equality of opportunity for all, shall not cease until the “gold” we seek, has been found.
I therefore dedicate this book to all the educators, researchers, parents and students the world over, who strive to achieve this elusive goal,high-quality education for all the citizens of the world.
In this endeavour, it is my belief that the International Baccalaureate merits a closer look, based on their more than 40 year history of delivering consistently excellent results.
I add that all of the reflections and views in this book are mine alone, unless otherwise noted, and can not be attributed to my employer or any other organization I am affiliated with, past or present. For any errors or oversights, I bear the complete responsibility.
Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He is the Head of the English Department at Colegio Internacional SEK in Santiago, Chile.
He is the Co-Founder and Co-Organiser of EdCamp Santiago, free, participant-driven, democratic, conversation based professional development for teachers, by teachers. EdCamp Santiago 2012 was held at Universidad Mayor in Santiago.
Thomas is also a member of the Advisory Board for the International Higher Education Teaching and Learning Association (HETL), where he also serves as a reviewer and as the HETL Ambassador for Chile.
Thomas enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. Thus far, he has written the following genres: romance, historical fiction, autobiographical, sports history/biography, and English Language Teaching. He has published a total of forty four (44) books overall.
The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family, his wife Gabriela, and his son, Thomas Jerome Baker, Jr.