Thursday, 19 May 2016

To those defending this year's GCSE Science exams

I'm beginning to find the Shuttup School of criticism being directed to pupils and parents who are objecting the science GCSE a little tiresome. The point is that Michael Gove deliberately upped the 'knowledge' content of these exams. He was warned by the Select Committee that this didn't make education better and didn't narrow the difference between the lowest scoring pupils and the highest. We now know that what it's also done is squeeze the practical side of science down to a very rudimentary core.

To which I ask, what's 'scientific' about the kind of cramming that I see our daughter doing for these exams? She is simply learning off by heart loads of stuff that she hasn't seen demonstrated let alone had a chance to experiment with it herself. This isn't science. It's the subject known as Learning-off-by-heart. It's what Judi Dench does without the 'perform it well' component. It may or may not be connected to any understanding of what is being learned. It is purely an arbitrary good side effect if it is. It may well not involve any sense of how what is being learned may be applied or how it manifests itself in the real world. It may. Or it may not.

As I say, this is not the science of investigation of, experimentation of, proving and 'reproducing' phenomena.

Those who are defending this stuff might consider what happens to those pupils who are going to fail this stuff? What have they got from the course? Awareness of scientific method and principles? And who's to say that this stuff is going to help create scientists?