UK student exam changes
Well the timing if my blog 2 days ago (that I have been thinking about for ages) couldn’t have been better – one day after I published it the Government announces a shake up of the English exam system with the introduction of an English Baccalaureate.
The basis of the change is more rigour in the exams to tackle grade inflation. A common criticism in the last few hours since the announcement has been that “surely we can’t have children failing exams” – this does seem somewhat daft to me because if you’re going to have a test not everyone is going to pass it, and we all don’t succeed at everything we do (at least I don’t). However, referring to my previous blog, it is noticeable that I didn’t mention passing or failing – simply where you are in the year in terms of ability in that one subject. With standard percentage grade boundaries there is no pass or fail, simply a position relative to others. You can call a C or above a pass, but in reality a test just grades everyone, from 1 to 10 in the new system I believe so there is no pass/fail point. So the pass/fail criticism fails!
I mentioned two main points in my blog – standard grade boundaries and a single exam board for each subject. The latter point has been adopted, but the former is not yet clear. One report says that exam boards can offer ‘norm referencing’ (the term for what I suggest) rather than the current ‘criterion referencing’ where standards are attempted to be equalised from year to year (but quite clearly unsuccessfully – hence the underlying grade inflation problem). I hope that when the proposals are firmed up in a bill brought before Parliament that ‘Norm referencing’ becomes the norm.
(P.S. Everyone’s English is going to have to improve just to spell Baccalaureate correctly without the aid of a spell checker!)