British government criticised for lowering GCSE exam standards

November 1st, 2008 - 6:28 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Nov 1 (IANS) Britain’s Conservative party has hit out at the Labour government, claiming the standard of questions for the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) examination was being lowered merely to inflate the pass rate as part of the government’s drive to meet its education targets.A question from the sample papers for this year’s GCSE science examination, which is equivalent to Class 10 in India, asks: The female nurse leaves the room while the x-ray is being taken. Why must she leave the room?

Choose any one answer from the following:
1. To avoid being in the x-ray
2. To avoid the x-ray damaging her cells
3. To avoid the x-rays melting her mobile phone
4. To avoid the x-rays giving her a tan

The opposition party has termed the level of questions as “laughably easy”, but is worried more about the fact that many students got the answers wrong for such questions. It bases its observations on the 2008 Examiners’ Report by British examination board Edexcel.

According to the report, one in five students who took the basic science in the GCSE this year answered that the sun orbits around the earth. One in 10 did not know that a rechargeable battery can be used more than once.

In Britain, students have the option of choosing science or advanced science as a subject for their GCSE examination. Within the subject, they can choose the degree of difficulty. The lowest level is called the foundation tier. Questions at this level are very basic and even if the students answer all questions correctly, the highest grade they can get is a C.

The above sample question is from this level.

Conservative schools spokesperson Michael Gove told Daily Mail: “It’s not as though these questions are rigorous tests of scientific knowledge. One exam board asks if we look at the stars through telescopes or microscopes.

“There is a desperate need to assert the importance of rigour and excellence in education if we are to avert further decline, but almost every step the government takes is in the opposite direction.”

Nick Seaton of the Campaign for Real Education said: “It’s a national scandal. When you get laughably easy questions like this which may help politicians to reach targets but mean businesses and employers can’t rely on the standards then, obviously, the system is not fit for purpose.”

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