As you may have been aware from my last post, or if you live in England and have any exposure to the news/facebook, you will know that on Thursday many teenagers got there GCSE results. I'm pretty happy with mine.
|Stereotypical happy, smiling, pretty blonde girl receiving results. [source]|
But of course, the Government isn't happy. Which isn't surprising considering that the GCSE curriculum is often mind-numbingly dull and patronising, filled with exam technique and little room for learning really great and interesting things for the sake of learning. It really is time for a re-think in regards to what we're learning. But hold up – this is the Government. They don't care that school is a place for learning and exploring knowledge, they're obviously exam factories where the only mark of how good they are is the number of A*s achieved, and if this number isn't at some target imposed by people who left school long, long ago and don't what it's like to be a teenager in the 21st Century, then clearly something is very wrong. Naturally, the only way to deal with this catastrophe is a continual fiddling with exam system and grade boundaries.
I'm not saying that grades aren't important – they definitely are. But how much does that A* I achieved in Drama really tell you? Does it tell you about my passion for the subject? All the hours I put in reading drama books and plays? Does it tell you about how my political beliefs and understanding of world was slightly altered? At the end of the day, does it even tell you if act or do lighting? The majority of the population will have no idea about what is involved in doing GCSE drama and so realistically an A* will mean nothing, other than that I reasonably good at the subject; a subject which most people don't take seriously, nor understand the sheer amount of hardwork and commitment involved.
Contrastingly, my "useful" A* in ICT will tell them almost nothing about what I actually know about computers. Does that A* say that I can write a line of code, or design a half decent looking page on a website, or do an IF statement in excel? I would love it if I could. Instead that A* means that I am fully qualified in taking screenshots. I can honestly hardly remember anything I learned, meaning that I realistically I am no better a candidate than somebody without GCSE IT in applying for a job. And what if I could remember something? How about I put it like this: if science is supposed to inspire us to become astrophysicists or chemical engineers, then the ICT course is clearly designed for us to spend our lives in an office doing admin.
I'll admit that in the sciences we do usually learn useful things. However when you look closer and compare to other subjects you begin to realise that there is a political agenda at play. We have to learn almost continuously about the environment. I understand and completely agree that the environment is one of the most important issues we face as a species, but by the time we have had it shoved down our throats in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Geography, Languages and even Religious Studies (all of which are compulsory or highly popular subjects), it just becomes boring, and my mind switches off the moment it is mentioned. We're just going to loose interest. It will loose it's power to shock. And while I sit there writing about how a Muslim would feel about recycling, I look towards our politicians and see very little action being taken. It's time we stop learning the theory, and start implementing it.
When students are still leaving school without achieving "5 A*-Cs including Maths and English" it is clear that the priority should not be on how hard it is to gain certain grades, but creating a curriculum that is more engaging than mobile phones or bunking off school. One which can engage teenagers no matter what their background is. One that can challenge and stretch every pupil, top and bottom. One which is worth more than an A*.