Friday, March 27, 2009

Half-Baked GCSE Science Fails Pupils

A half-baked science GCSE was pushed through by the government, leaving pupils with a dumbed down qualification not worth the paper it's written on. 

The exam watchdog has slammed tests as being far too easy but it's ministers who now need to learn the lessons of their GCSE science exam sham. 

After two years of playing with the future of our children and moving the goal posts to hit unrealistic targets, regulator Ofqual has finally nailed the "dumbed down" science GCSEs with too many multiple choice papers and superficial questions which are no longer a challenge to the brightest pupils.

Both the LibDems and Tories have hit on New Labour failings exposed by the report which said there had been "an overall decline in the standards of performance" and the papers are now easier. The specifications for the science, additional science and physics exams raised "significant causes for concern." 

Now CSE boards have been told they must sharpen up their act to improve the quality of science questions in order to stretch and challenge students and the entire science specification should be rewritten.

The controversial new GCSE in single science has led to more than 500,000 students being told their qualification has been "dumbed down" because of "significant causes for concern" about the quality of the exams last year. 

The regulator, Ofqual, ordered a review of the controversial new GCSE in single science  after an investigation found a "lack of challenge" in papers, standards differing wildly across three main exam boards, and too many multiple-choice questions. 

Ofqual blames the monstrous exams quango, the qualification and curriculum authority but it was the government which rushed in the GCSE before pilots were finished.

Concerns were raised about the 21st-century science GCSE since its teaching began in September 2006. 

Ministers and their New Labour lackeys reckon this is a science problem not a GCSE problem, coming out with the usual uneducated NewLabourSpeak.

But the report will trigger concerns because those GCSEs are entirely modular and that's the model all GCSEs will follow from September.

At the risk of stating the obvious, GCSE science tests are far too easy. Bright pupils just sail through. And that is an insult to the hard-working children who are forced to sit a set of worthless exams and then lulled into a false sense of academic achievement which does no-one any favours, not least the pupils. 

The warning bells were sounding back in 2007 when a science and technology select committee report noted the rollout of the science GCSE was rushed in without piloting, at a time when there was panic about not enough students coming through to the universities.

Many private schools have switched to teaching the more traditional International GCSEs to stretch bright pupils, in a move criticised with breathtaking arrogance by school's secretary Ed Balls as being out of touch with the reality of "our education system". 

His education system maybe but not "ours". Anyone with the best interests of all our children's future at heart will be shocked by these findings. How on earth can the country hope to get top-notch scientists for the future?

In one of his rare forays away from saving the world, Brown recently pledged to double the number of pupils in state schools taking three separate science GCSE exams in physics, chemistry and biology, by 2014. 

Just moving the goal posts and making exams easier is a shameful way to achieve a misguided and unrealistic political promise. 

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