A DECADE after the GCSE replaced O-levels, arguments continue to rage over whether examination standards have declined.
Supporters of the current system say students must show a greater depth of understanding by demonstrating analytical skills instead of simply memorising facts and dates.
Traditionalists insist the O-level was a tougher test requiring a mastery of knowledge and argument. They say the style of GCSE questioning helps students to present the right answers instead of challenging them to show what they know.
And, despite furious denials from examiners, they believe pupils need to know less now to get a decent grade.
On the right we show how the different style of questions by comparing typical questions in this year's GCSE exam in history with a similar one faced by O-level students in 1987.
This example demonstrates the marked and much-criticised shift from key events and facts towards social history and evaluation of 'sources'.
And below, two eminent educationalists give their arguments on which system they say it is better and why.
A watershedindumbing down Britain
By RICHARD THORPE
Former schoolmaster of Charterhouse
WE ARE assured by government spokesmen and examination board PR men that GCSE standards have never been more rigorous and that anyone who claims otherwise is by implication an educational dinosaur.
Yet the doubts persist. Employers are certainly underwhelmed by the qualifications on offer, parents are rightly concerned and university admissions tutors know that many candidates have neither the depth …