It has taken me awhile to think through this blog and it’s a little complicated so bear with me, I think it is worth the effort.
It starts with a press release from our leading examination board OCR ( their words, I have no idea… ) and it’s all about getting industry to help teachers to use technology in the classroom in a robust way that leverages zeitgeist motifs such as ‘entrepreneurship’, ‘start-up’ and ‘edtech’.
- A quote from Mark Dawe, OCR Chief Executive, “to be active, not passive consumers of edtech”,
- The Startup Weekend in partnership with Invent-ed.com, a company run by education entrepreneur Richard Taylor of MediaTaylor Ltd and
- The reappearance of Tim Pearson ex CEO of RM Plc.
So far so good. This is a worthy and necessary initiative: ICT and the use of technology in general in schools is fatally wounded and frankly just dying.
But what is OCR actually saying? In addition to the above they also say that there is 'more to education than exam'. Duh? OCR is a business that makes it's money from selling exams.
Other things are happening in exam-world. The massive exam board EdExcel no longer exists. It is called Pearsons after the giant publishing company that has owned it for years. Ok, what's in a name?
Ah! I get it ,the exam boards don't think they are going to make money from flogging exams in the future so are moving into becoming suppliers of educational materials. A field they know well as they supply the materials for their own exams already. But why do they think this?
You can get a modular GCSE or even a half GCSE in most any subject you can think of.
This has been an utter disaster for schools. Think about it; if it’s taught it will be examinable OMG! ( or Ecce! Meus Deus as Mike would say). The 'examinification' of all teaching has produced a generation (or two) of useless qualifications mixed in with useful qualifications ... but much worse ... - it has turned teachers into mere syllabus delivering PowerPoint monkeys.
A good example would be Computing and ICT which became simply ';syllabuses'. I cannot think of a subject area less suited to prescription, and so basically its demise was assured and remains so.
Enter Michael Gove.
This guy is changing things radically make no mistake but first a little retrospective is needed over the GCSE qualification which is soon to be confined only to the Celtic fringes of the UK.
Today will see the details of the new I levels in a group of core subjects - English language and literature, maths, physics, chemistry, biology, combined science, history and geography. Basically they will be elite, O Level format qualifications.
Note no Computing.
A lot follows from the above. Firstly half a GCSE in ‘health and hygiene’ will be worthless and so schools will not buy these or other similar GCSE exams. Secondly there will be vastly fewer ‘exam merchandising opportunities’; no modules, no re-sits and a smaller range. This will obviously promote the ‘de-examinification’ of schools and at the same time save them shed loads of money. The exam boards know this and are changing ... fast.
The 16+ exam reforms will free up schools to teach rather than simply test. The old exam boards will be happy to provide the materials to help them. E-books, raspberry-pi ,you name it….. Technology will be the biggest winner.
But what a concept! A lesson without a GCSE at the end of it. Is this a step too far? Probably...