June 28 2012
U.S. Rushes to Adopt—England May be Scrapping—National Curriculum
Vicki E. Alger
England’s Secretary of Education, Michael Gove, wants to “ensure an education system that compares with most rigorous in the world” by scrapping the “the current exam system as well as abolishing the National Curriculum,” according to the Daily Mail, which obtained leaked details of the overhaul plan.
In light of today's Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare, it seems some Americans are bound and determined to embrace a UK-style socialized medical system. Others also seem to be lurching toward its nationalized education system—one England now calls a “historic mistake.”
Mr .Gove believes the creation of GCSEs [General Certificate of Secondary Education] by the Tories in the 1980s was a 'historic mistake' that has 'failed pupils' and led to the collapse of standards through grade inflation and a proliferation of 'Mickey Mouse' courses. … The Education Secretary said: 'We would like to see every student in this country able to take world class qualifications, like the rigorous and respected exams which are taken, for example, by Singapore's students.' In Singapore students can sit an O-level exam set by Cambridge University. Mr. Gove added: 'We want to tackle the culture of competitive dumbing-down, by making sure that exam boards cannot compete with each other on the basis of how easy their exams are. …
The leaked document seen by the Mail reveals: more details of the proposal:
Those starting GCSEs in 2013 are the last pupils who will have to do them.' This means they will sit their exams in 2015. Between two-thirds and three-quarters of pupils who begin in September 2014 will be expected to take O-levels in English, maths and the sciences in 2016. There will be individual O-levels in physics, chemistry and biology, instead of a combined sciences qualification. In a bid to end the slide in standards, pupils will have to study complex subjects like calculus to get an A grade in O-level maths. English literature pupils will be banned from taking set texts into exams and will be expected to write longer essays.
Questions like 'Would you look at the Moon with a microscope or a telescope?' from science GCSEs will be a thing of the past. As well as the return of O-levels, the Government will create a new exam for less able pupils.
When GCSEs were created they were supposed to help less-gifted students.
But Mr. Gove believes those teenagers have been encouraged to think that a D, E, F or G grade at GCSE is a 'pass' when the real world treats those grades as a 'fail'.
From 2014, the bottom 25 per cent of pupils will study more straightforward exams in English, maths and science, so they can get a worthwhile qualification.
Education in the UK is devolving, meaning that the proposed changes would apply only to England. Scotland uses a different grading system than England; while Wales and Northern Ireland would decide what, if any reforms, to follow.
Secretary Gove’s plan to strengthen education for all students is—not surprisingly—opposed by teachers unions. But the England’s National Curriculum has been under review for some time. “As it has developed, the National Curriculum has come to cover more subjects, prescribe more outcomes and take up more school time than originally intended. It is our intention that the National Curriculum be slimmed down so that it properly reflects the body of essential knowledge in key subjects and does not absorb the overwhelming majority of teaching time in schools.”
There’s a lesson here for American politicians: the government does not know best when it comes to education, and the pressure to dumb-down standards (as we’ve seen with No Child Left Behind) to raise pass rates won’t go away with Common Core National Standards.