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Saturday, 22 September 2012

Does EBC Spell Travesty For Gender Equality?

EBC. Elite Boys Club? No, the English Bacculaureate Certificate to replace the repeatedly re-jigged and increasingly maligned GCSE.  This newest political football that Michael Gove is hoping to find the net with, may actually be heading for the crossbar if we consider its potential effect on female students.

Women are frequently reported as not being fairly represented in top positions in the workplace, but many girls outperform their male peers at GCSE level. This is a foundation for future progress which looks set to be eroded. Eradicating coursework completely appears a retrograde step if we consider the progress made in education related to directing learning towards individuals, depending on their particular strengths and weaknesses.  After years of taking into account different learning styles, we are suddenly presented with a one size fits all qualification. Obviously clarity and uniformity of assessment is a principal concern, but surely there is nothing wrong with developing a qualification that plays to different student strengths, not just the ability to produce a good grade from a two hour final exam, on what is usually a hay fever inducing summer's day.

Some students will do better in this system, some will fare less well if they are pressured to produce all of the goods at once in a terminal examination. A system that includes a variety is surely fairer, especially when results indicate that across gender lines, there is a divide: girls tend to be more successful at coursework, whereas boys seem able to perform best in test conditions. Coursework has already been eroded and reinvented as controlled assessment in order to limit plagiarism that is now easier facilitated by Internet essay banks. However, these allow a gradual accrual of marks and hence build confidence and allow children to make mistakes but then learn and develop from them, rather than have all their eggs in one basket in an exam room at the end of their final school year.
It is also disheartening that a more negative picture of the current situation is being presented. This makes students in the current system feel that their work is undervalued. In one article in the Telegraph, it was reported that the new system would bring back essay writing. Students have never stopped writing essays for controlled assessment and exams. The public need a clearer picture of the situation, not a clutch of spurious claims that grab headlines to sell papers and generate confusion.

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