This week it was announced by ministers that A levels and GCSE`s in secondary schools will be replaced by a Baccalaureate. Baccalaureate exams are already used in France, Germany and the United States of America. The government are hoping to start this system in September 2004.
A Levels were first introduced in the 1950`s and GCSE`s were introduced when O levels were phased out in the 1980`s and have caused much discussion and many arguments by Head teachers and Education ministers during the last few years. The education secretary said that A Levels were too narrow and exclusive.
If there is going to be an English version of the Baccalaureate it will make things far easier to study at universities abroad because they would understand the qualification that a student in Britain would achieve.
Recently AS Levels have been introduced by many schools across the country. This has given a student the opportunity of choosing up to 5 subjects to study for one year and then dropping one or two of these subjects before continuing with the remaining ones. This gives the pupil a much broader education as they are not just studying for the same 3 subjects during the two years of studying.
I am not sure if these exams have been a success because everyone moans about them as students have to take continuous examinations. Change at schools must always cause complaints because it is very hard after so many years to adjust to new rules. Heads of schools have to change the way their teachers educate the pupils, and new guidelines have to be carried out nationally. This must be very disruptive during the first couple of years for both students and pupils participating in this scheme, and after the fiasco this year with the marking of them, I do wonder if change is a good thing.
Education is changing rapidly, and we will know by the end of the year if the Baccalaureate will definitely be in force. The Baccalaureate will include English, Maths, and Science and then students will be able to choose from a range of academic and practical courses. Work experience will be a must for anyone who takes the exam as will voluntary work. If the baccalaureate is introduced there will be fewer exams and more internal assessment.
This will give a student much more of an all – round education, and would be more varied on a day to day basis. This would make education much more original and personal, and could be tailor made for each individual pupil. This I am sure would make the normal school day far less boring. I would welcome an opportunity like this. I think every student should participate in voluntary work. This would give everyone a chance to help others and would save money for local councils, as it would have to employ less paid staff.
The Baccalaureate will have to be accepted by all the Universities, in England and abroad, especially in Europe, and have the support from future employers, especially those in industry, otherwise this new exam will not work in Britain. It is yet to be decided what it will include. But it will change the way 14 to 19 year olds are taught. Ministers and Headmasters think that this is the most significant way forward and it will be the biggest change education has seen for years. There would be different levels of attainment. As yet they have not decided what these levels will be called but it is likely that they will be along the lines of foundation, intermediate and advanced.
Mathematics, English and Science and Information Technology will be compulsory for GCSE and pupils will have to be educated in Sex Education, Physical Education and Religious Education. Pupils will also have to study citizenship. At fourteen years of age pupils will be free to drop many other subjects, which have been compulsory in the National Curriculum, including History, Geography, Art and Music. These subjects will now only be optional.
College training will be offered locally on a one or two day a week basis. Day release would also be available to some pupils. With employers so that they could gain skills, which they would never be able to achieve at present at their school.
It would also give a pupil the chance to decide if they enjoyed college, wanted to work or pursue a different field all together. I welcome this, and think that the more choices offered the better. If I personally cannot have these choices I hope my younger sister will be able to benefit from the new curriculum.
There are big shortages of trained engineers, technicians, hairdressers and plumbers at present and by doing these new regimes of studying, pupils will have a much better chance of future employment. Many students are bored by school education and would welcome the chance to study something more vocational, and maybe this would keep them at school until 19 rather than leaving at 16 with very few qualifications and no prospects of a job. Also if a student enjoys his or her day release, a job might be offered there and then for the participating pupil, and the employer would then be obtaining an apprentice that knew what he was doing. On the other hand employers will only be able to offer a limited number of jobs and this may leave a large percentage of unemployed students with very few qualifications.
These work related GCSEs would be renamed and would combine both academic studies and more practical work; they will be tried out across the country in various schools this coming September. Industry will benefit from this as many more students will be trained in the relevant work and not just fresh from a class without any experience.
Another change on the way is the way that the league tables for exam results are calculated. It will show the difference between advantaged and disadvantaged pupils at each school. Each school throughout the country will then be awarded a grade from A to E depending on their excellence or their failures. This is meant to be much more understandable and will offer more information to parents choosing schools for their children’s future education. People need to know the correct facts, and by changing the tables slightly, this will offer just that.
Before the league tables were started several years ago, it was virtually impossible to obtain information about how well or how badly pupils had faired in their exams at school. So in my opinion the tables have been a great help. Also by printing these tables in all the newspapers, it has been made everyone aware of the academic successes of schools around the country.
This also has meant that everyone is aware of the schools that have done very badly academically and this has made the government enforce an improvement during a certain period of time, or they have threatened closure and/or a change of management. This must be good for education in the future. It can only improve schools especially those in disadvantaged areas, where expectations of pupil performance is low.
Every student should be aware of poor teaching and academic successes and although it might not always be possible to enter the school of your choice, it will enforce better education at all schools around the country and hopefully the worst offenders will be greatly improved or shut down.
All students whether in Independent Education or State Education should be offered the same curriculum with the choice of vocational subjects. Employers must welcome these changes as well.
I have enjoyed my education, and am looking forward to furthering it, but would have preferred a much more varied curriculum. I have a job on a Saturday which has given me an insight into retail, and have secured work experience in a large organisation in the summer which will be very interesting for me. But although I know I want to study art I have no idea in which area I would like to continue and if I had been able to study in a more practical manner, maybe I would be more knowledgeable, and more able to progress in the appropriate area.