GCSE dumped for E-Bac? (originally posted 7/2/13)

This morning I heard about the English government’s plans to scrap GCSE. It would, according to them, be replaced with an English version of the Baccalaureate (E-Bac). Apparently its purpose is to raise the academic standards of England, which everyone acknowledges have been dropping for decades.

(What follows is just my opinion. Remember, I’m in my mid 20s so I did GCSEs & A-levels)

There will be no real difference. All it amounts to is changing the name. It won’t result in any raising of standards because it will still completely fail to address the reasons for the poor standards. These reasons include but aren’t limited to:


  • Primary & secondary schools are boring. There was once a time when children had all kinds of extracurricular activities, like kayaking and martial arts. I’d have loved to do something like that! Now extracurricular activities are rare, and they still do much of the same things they’d do in school. This gives the impression that school is never-ending and you never get a rest from it. 
  • No freedom. Children are made to do subjects with no explanation of why they’re important (no, the “it’s to teach them necessary workplace skills” line doesn’t cut it for most), and leaves us with no real desire to succeed. If, for example, a 10yo girl wants to become a TV director and schools don’t teach that (which they don’t), what’s she to do? Just shut up and put up with a subject that holds no importance to her, and she may actively dislike. 
  • The media, more now than ever before, discourages children from academic pursuits. How many educational TV shows exist nowadays? And think about this – why should anyone want to spend 7 years in secondary school learning science & a further 7 years in uni doing medicine to become a doctor when David Beckham & Olly Murs*, for example, can just get on TV & get untold millions? Millions of pounds and fans, that is. 

*Or Pamela Anderson

Then there’s the fact that the media portrays yobs, gangstas, chavs and the rest as normal decent people. If children are made to believe parties are more enjoyable than algebra, it’ll take some work to convince them otherwise. And no-one is doing that work. 

    • Many teachers themselves don’t care about students. Of course this doesn’t apply to all teachers, maybe not even most, but enough to warrant mention. Teaching is just a job, for most it’s nothing to get passionate about. There are too few teachers willing to try to make the lessons fun, partially because some teachers actually don’t know that much about &/or dislike the subjects they teach (wtf?) and partially because some of them are just lazy. Some actively dislike the children, calling them idiots, failures, etc. and get away with it. 

The Inbetweeners‘ Mr Kennedy. He has an active dislike of most of his students, and if you think he’s kidding he assures you he is not

  • The goal of education. Children know the only reason for school nowadays is to learn skills to enter the workplace. Even if it did that well (which it doesn’t), why should children – who aren’t old enough to work – care about the workplace? Most of them don’t even know what they want to do when they are old enough to work, and the phenomenon of young adults going through life with no ambition or certainty of what to do is infamous. On top of that, the concept of making us “able to compete in the global market” is bantered around a lot, but why should the global market or the economy matter to us? What fulfillment can we get out of it? That’s conveniently left unanswered. 
  • The structure of the system. The fact that we have a difference in standards between public and private schools says it all. Private schools are paid for and thus guaranteed to give children good academic standing. Public schools, not so much. On top of that, GCSE grades are useless for the workplace. Even A-levels and uni degrees have lost much of their value. So what’s the point of school & uni? 
  • Parents’ failures. England has too pervasive a culture of people sleeping around, getting pregnant & not knowing how to raise the offspring, which often means they don’t see it as their responsibility to educate them. Education starts in the home but too many don’t understand that; they think that’s the schools’ & government’s job. Even for those parents who mean well, the cost of living has gone up so much that even with mum and dad working full-time they struggle to pay the bills which leaves them with precious little time & energy to teach their children anything valuable. Then there’s the booze-bingeing, drinking for the sake of getting drunk, which has been part of English culture for centuries. Despite the known medical effects of alcohol, it’s still seen as good fun for teens to get “smashed”, so drunk they don’t even know their way home let alone what 2 x 0 equals. 

Hooray for booze!!!

  • Ignorance of how to cater to children’s individual needs. It’s rather well documented now that all people have 3 main ways of learning: visual (seeing), auditory (hearing) & kinaesthetic (touching/ feeling/ moving). Most people predominate in one style, usually visual but even so everyone relies on all 3 to some extent. No school in England trains teachers how to cater for all 3 types, only visual & auditory. This means some kids are left unable to “get a feel” for the subjects (if you tend to use phrases like this, it’s a good clue you’re probably kinaesthetic). 

For these reasons, and probably more, I don’t see how changing the GCSE for the E-Bac will make any difference to English children’s academic achievements. If anyone has opinions on this topic I invite discussion. 

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