Friday, 27 March 2009

Ofqual condemns new Science GCSE - but have they answered the right question?

Ofqual's criticism of the current science GCSE system is unsurprising [See BBC], but they really have missed the point. It is not just the mechanisms of assessment are flawed, but that the level of the scientific content has been reduced.

Teaching professionals have being arguing for a long time that new GCSE science curriculum [that was first examined last year] has been dumbed down. The GCSE Core Science curriculum, which now forms a component of the separate science GCSEs, contains little that those of us of the O-level generation would recognise as science. There are so many science-in-society elements that are driven by a social agenda and do not require hard scientific skills or knowledge that it has become "Noddy and Big Ears do science".

Ofqual is insisting on changes for 2009 including
  • Improved quality of questions, to stretch and challenge all students
  • Work, including training for senior examiners, to improve objective tests (multiple choice)
  • Tighter marking criteria to ensure that only the answers deserving of the marks are credited
  • Some internal assessments revised to ensure better challenge to students

Laying aside the practical problem of moving of the goal-posts this close to the summer's examination, I believe that Ofqual have missed the point here. Their analysis ignores the fundamental problem with core GCSE science, namely the nature of the syllabus content.

Listen to the response of Jim Knight, Schools Minister, on the Today Programme

Try a Core Science paper for yourself:

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