Michael Gove was busy working on a major overhaul to the UK education when his radical plans were leaked. His idea to bring back the O-Level and scrap GCSEs in a bid to raise standards predictably drew the ire of teaching unions and Liberal Democrats in Parliament. Gove was swiftly summoned to the Commons to explain, but instead of backing down as seen so often in politics, Gove simply laid out his compelling plans that would involve scrapping the much hated and restrictive National Curriculum and move back towards a rigorous O-Level with a broader and tougher syllabus.
The Telegraph counters the critics’ arguments that Gove is taking education back in time:
It is the future with which Mr Gove is obsessed: namely, building a nation with the skills and knowledge to compete in the 21st century, and rekindling social mobility by providing bright pupils with the education to match their intellect. To that end, he is borrowing – as with his similar remodelling of the primary school curriculum – not from the days of blackboards and mortar boards, but from the best practices of Britain’s global rivals.
The advent of GCSEs and the scrapping of grammar schools heralded the dawn of a one-size-fits all exam system that was championed by advocates of universal mediocrity in the name of equality. The Telegraph argues that what the current system did was fail pupils at both ends of the intellectual spectrum.
It is not just the quality of the exams that is the problem, but the overly prescriptive, teach-to-the-test culture that they promote, which sees schools focus remorselessly on dragging pupils over the barrier between a D and a C grade, rather than cultivating a wider spirit of learning and inquiry.
Gove’s plans include creating a single exam board for each subject; an idea which should end the competition between exam boards to offer, and sell, the easiest possible exam.
Last summer, 23 per cent more youngsters had good GCSE pass rates than in 1995-96. In part, this reflects real progress but it also reflects the fact that exams have been made easier.
Whether Gove can successfully bulldoze his plans through a hostile force consisting of teachers unions already prepared to strike over pension changes, and Liberal Democrats, who are ostensibly his Coalition partners and have previously shown themselves willing to dissolve the partnership if they don’t get their own way on pet issues, remains to be seen. One thing is for certain though, Gove is probably the most dynamic and driven Education Secretary Britain has seen in the post war era and perhaps sadly for education is endearing himself so much to Tory loyalists that he may be promoted to weightier office before completing his education revolution.