Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Let's Break Free of GCSE Constraints: Resources

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Let's Break Free of GCSE Constraints: Resources

Article excerpt

We are being forced down narrow paths of knowledge, argues sixth- former Noa Lessof Gendler.

The arguments in favour of replacing GCSEs seem simple enough and try to address the problems experienced by students and parents across the country: GCSEs are too easy, they don't encourage independent thinking and study, they don't stretch or challenge students. Indeed, I sat my GCSEs just 12 months ago and found each of my 10 two-year courses agonisingly uninspiring.

My own experience was based upon ticking boxes, and we literally did just that. Even art, which was advertised as an independent-minded option, through which we would follow our own interests and tastes, forced us to work by completing "assessment objectives". Achieving 95 per cent in each of the four objectives would give us the A that our school desired for us.

To ensure that we fulfilled every requirement perfectly and subsequently topped the league tables, a list was drawn up specifying every page we would complete in our sketchbooks: first a watercolour drawing of items in the British Museum, then an annotated photocopy of said watercolour, then a series of small photocopies of the watercolour arranged in a mirroring pattern, then a screen-printed tessellation created from our watercolours, then a page on Rembrandt and his etching technique ...

This is the perfect embodiment of the constraints presented by GCSEs. They force students into narrow alleyways of know-ledge instead of encouraging exploration and discovery. It was my head of art who presented us with the list and not the exam board itself, but it just goes to show how even passionate eccentrics like my teacher could be intimidated into boring grey corners by the institution of GCSEs. Given the choice, I'm sure he would have given us each a sketchbook and a pencil and sent us off into the wide world, surfacing occasionally to recommend a different angle or to point us towards some obscure and irrelevant exhibition in a warehouse in Croydon. As it happened, we sat in a classroom for two years and did exactly the same thing as everyone else in the year.

Perhaps a new curriculum with a new set of exams and a blank slate on which a progressive view of education could be created is what we need. …

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