Skills to Pay the Bills

Late August always seems to bring education angst to the chattering classes. A-level and GCSE results always raise the questions:

  • Are exams too easy?
  • Are students studying too many ‘soft’ subjects?

Then we get the inevitable

  • The education system isn’t providing the future workforce with the skills they need
  • Why do so many need to go to university, why don’t they go straight into work

This year I had more than a passing interest in the annual kvetching– my son got his GCSE results and is studying a couple of ‘soft subjects’ for A levels.

I certainly don’t think that the exams are getting easier and find the comparisons of results before the merging of O Levels and CSEs into GCSEs with those since pointless. Results are now partly based on coursework and controlled assessments…surely a much better was to assess someone’s grasp of a subject and work ethic than relying solely on a three hour cram-a-thon jumble of facts and figures shorn of much context and relevance.

The shift from quota based marking to criteria based…away from having set numbers achieving each grade to recognising the attainment of a level of achievement…has also clearly helped to create the impression that grades are more easily achieved.

So what of the soft subjects? Well Drama has given my son confidence, an ability to express and project himself, and experience of teamwork – many of the things supposedly lacking in today’s workforce. Additionally he has had the opportunity to be part of a group creating a production from scratch, which was assessed as a whole, with each group member getting the same grade. Real project experience with teamwork and interdependency…great experience for the workplace. Continue reading “Skills to Pay the Bills”