Thursday, October 05, 2006

One exam system for all?

The Independent today runs a leading article bemoaning the fragmentation of the English examination system, with schools threatening to break away from GCSE and A level. Andrew Boggis, chairman of the HMC, seems to be much distressed. To which I have replied:

"One exam system for all? Oh please no. Uniformity always comes at a cost, and has to be justified. What benefits would a uniform exam system bring? Universities don't need it -- they already deal with a plethora of examination systems worldwide. Employers don't need it -- they are used to evaluating a wide range of technical qualifications. If we need some common metric to enable us to understand how diverse qualifications relate to each other, then this is well provided for by both the UCAS and the QCA. Anyway, the examination system is irretrievably fragmented -- the International Baccalaureate and the Scottish system are well established here, other systems of education such as Steiner and Montessori are growing apace, and when it comes to our flourishing overseas education business it is the IGCSE that the British Council promotes. And then there is the whole vocational and quasi-vocational system.

Let us rather celebrate the enormous advantages that a diverse system of qualifications will bring to us. Parents and schools will be able to choose the qualifications that are best suited to their children and to their objectives -- control will pass from a central bureaucracy to the people who are really capable of taking the decisions. Competition between systems will result in continuing improvements in quality and fitness for purpose -- characteristics which have become steadily degraded in our moribund monolithic GCSE and A level system. Schools rather than panicking politicians will control the pace of change -- they will move from one examination to another when they are ready to do so, rather than having to live with a single system in constant turmoil.

Don't shackle the Independent -- free the state."

What's the point of having someone running the independent schools' organisation who does not like independence?


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