This chapter will indicate some of the sources of dissatisfaction with public examinations in England and Wales at secondary school level, prior to the introduction of the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) and explore the extent to which the new examination system is achieving its aims. The GCSE's place in a developing context of assessment purposes and procedures is outlined.
'Bitzer', said Thomas Gradgrind; 'Your definition of a horse.'
'Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in the spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs, too. Hoofs hard, but requiring to be shod with iron. Age known by marks in mouth.' Thus (and much more) Bitzer.
'Now girl number twenty, ' said Mr Gradgrind. 'You know what a horse is.'
Charles Dickens, Hard Times
'An Army marches on its stomach' (Napoleon). Illustrate and examine.
Sellar and Yeatman, 1066 and All That
What society asks of its examination systems is reflected in a number of ways in what those systems ask of their candidates. The development of our examination systems at 16-plus and 18-plus dates from the formalization of assessment in the nineteenth century. Nineteenth-century urban expansion and social legislation led to a rapid growth in local government and