Magnus Bashaarat argues for GCSE reform

Bedales Senior

In an article for TES, Head of Bedales Magnus Bashaarat argues that the neo-traditionalist Goveian GCSE curriculum is out of step with the worlds of work and higher education, and that reform is overdue.

Magnus explains that headteachers and education leaders are now queuing up to decry the paucity of the educational experience that GCSEs have become. Today’s GCSEs, he says, replicate the kind of curriculum that Michael Gove would have enjoyed in his Scottish independent school in the 1980s. Intelligence, and the validation that came with success, was about learning things and remembering them, and then writing them out.

He says: “It’s easy to make results improve if you test less and teach it more often. But the obsession with assessment leads to spurious claims about rising standards, and doesn’t measure anything that expresses the pupil experience.”

This kind of pedagogy, he argues, is woefully unfit for the contemporary world of work, with its focus on collaboration, project work, creative problem-solving, design thinking, and innovation. Additionally, he says, it is increasingly evident that GCSEs don’t help universities to discriminate between applicants who can stay the course of a degree and those who can’t.”

He does not spare the English Baccalaureate, which he describes as “a performance measure masquerading as a curriculum”. He concludes: “The aim was no doubt to pretend that this was a forward-thinking, radical curriculum that would address the perceived problem of early specialisation in UK schools. In fact, it’s a wrapper with a French word on it and inside it’s the same old fish and chips.”

The full article can be read on the TES website (subscription may be necessary).

Magnus' views on GCSE reform were also reported in the i in January 2020; read the full article here.

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