A distinct lack of 2020 vision?

Destination: future?*

If anything one can believe in the Daily Mail is true, there are widespread media reports today of leaked documents that reveal the details of the Gove masterplan for the introduction of all new, back to the 1950s O level style examinations, or ‘Gove’ levels as they have now become unpopularly known.


Just in case you were expecting anything along the lines of a clever, imaginative and 21st century solution to what has become a fundamentally-flawed and outdated approach to the examination process, the proposals all seem to boil down to a simplistic and superficial dismissal of everything that has been done over the past twenty five years to encourage more teenagers that they might have a chance of achieving some success in life. So no more modules or just re-taking parts of the exam. Or a) MCQ’s or b) short-answer paragraphs. Or even short sentences. And in case that’s not quite enough to restore our PISA standings, no more letters of the alphabet as grades, but a return to the more mathematically rigorous pre-1970s O level numbering system of 1 to 6 pass, 7 to 9 fail. Well, if that doesn’t make a difference, surely nothing will?

Now you might be forgiven for thinking that these days, things change fast, and that the need for these reforms is just a little bit urgent if we are to regain our global reputation as a centre of excellence for education, and for a well qualified population. Tomorrow would not be soon enough. Which is why the first examinations will not be sat until 2017. And as those teenagers will not be able to leave until they are 18, it will be 2019 before they emerge onto the employment market, which is just about close enough to justify the clever ‘2020 vision’ title of this post. So here’s a preview of an online job advertisement appearing in your locality 8 years from now…

Dateline 2020

School-leavers wanted to join a successful and innovative start-up company. Clear evidence of ability to work collaboratively in a fast-moving, agile, creative problem-solving environment that can respond to the demands of rapidly changing markets is essential. Candidates who demonstrate a preference for working on their own for three hours writing theoretical essays need not apply….

*Image credit:   Gilderic Photography http://www.flickr.com/photos/gilderic/2728059828/ and caption:

“It’s a true sci-fi vision. But it is not a time machine. It’s not inside a spaceship. It’s not a secret science laboratory. It’s inside the Atomium, built for the Universal Exhibition, in Brussels, in 1958”.

If Gove really wants to take us back to the 1950s, perhaps his vision could at least start at the steps of the Atomium.

One comment on “A distinct lack of 2020 vision?

  1. Phrase:
    “Standing on the shoulders of giants.”

    “Using the understanding gained by major thinkers who have gone before in order to make intellectual progress.”

    So what does Gove’s master plan do to build on this concept? All he’s doing is chopping off the legs of those giants so that we may see and understand less.

    How on Earth can simple “on the day” time-limited exams be better than a combined modular, appraised at various stages, type of testing? Gove-levels rule out all those types of people that don’t perform well in tests or who just happen to be having a bad day during the exam.

    Far better to evaluate skills, reasoning, progress and achievement over a period I would have thought. I’m crap at first to press the buzzer sort of quizzes yet I might well know or be able to deduce the answer. Timed testing in education is no measure of ability, it’s not an Olympic event and as long as the course is completed properly, does it matter what time it takes or how I perform an a particular day?

    It’s not really to do with exams, but check this out: (towards the end of the video the 15 year old uses the Newton/Salisbury ‘Standing on the shoulders of giants’ phrase to good effect)

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