ENGLAND- GCSE and A-Level students will soon be required to take much more difficult examinations, as announced by the Department for Education. The new exams, implemented as part of a raft of changes to the examination system, will begin to be phased in from 2015 and will include new features such as questions in foreign languages and a renewed focus on translating from, rather than into, English.
In addition to most questions now being asked in the foreign language, there will also be more weight given to language skills other than writing: 25% of marks will be awarded for speaking exercises, and a further 25% to listening exercises at GCSE level. This necessitates a movement away from coursework, and an increased importance on the end-of-year exam as an assessment tool. The aim of this reformation is not only to improve assessment in general, but also to make the top grades more difficult to obtain and therefore better reward hardworking students. Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, said that the new changes will reduce the the damage caused by grade inflation and give tertiary educators and employers greater confidence in the efficacy of the education system in general.
Among the institutions backing the changes is Ofqual, the company which regulates GCSE examinations. Glenys Stacy, the chief executive, has said that the extended emphasis on end-of-year exams will allow teachers to focus on facilitating learning amongst their pupils rather than being contrained by assessment obligations. However, not all reactions have been positive. There has been something of a backlash against the changes, mainly led by scientific organisations which are opposed to the imposition of practical experiments into examinations. There has also been a negative reaction to the changes in general, as voiced by Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, who stated that refoming GCSE examinations in such a hasty manner will put pressure on teachers and regulatory bodies to adapt too quickly and could damage the overall repuation of the GCSE system.