Monday, 20 August 2007

Do we really need modular GCSEs?

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is apparently planning to allow up to 50% of GCSE marks for modular examinations which would be taken during the course, rather than at its end. I wonder how wise this is. The combination of coursework and modularity has been central - justified or not - to the whole accusation about exams being dumbed down, especially A-levels. Now QCA is sensibly cutting some GCSE coursework. But few would argue that it is easier to get a good grade if you can repeat a component several times. Who is asking for these modular GCSEs? I can't believe teachers or students want the whole two years before a GCSE turned into a permanent exam (just as QCA are cutting the A-level modules). We should at least retain one examination which is based wholly on a synoptic assessment of what young people know at the end of their studies rather than mixing it with modules that cast aspersions on their achievements.
UPDATE: I have been contacted by a diligent QCA press officer who points out that GCSEs can currently be either unitised or linear (this has been the case since 2001). "We have to renew the exam criteria every 8 years or so, and we are asking what people think of unitisation," he says. He also points out that awarding bodies almost always offer GCSEs as linear (final exam) qualifications, even though they could offer unitised versions if they wanted to. So here's hoping they still will in the future.

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