Wales politics

Scrap GCSEs, says Future Generations Commissioner

Pupils taking exams Image copyright PA Media
Image caption A new curriculum replacing traditional subjects will be taught from 2022

GCSEs are not fit for purpose and should be scrapped for more skills-based assessments, the Future Generations Commissioner has said.

Sophie Howe told BBC Sunday Politics Wales that "our obsession with exams" was not giving young people the right skills they needed for the future.

She called for assessments to be less focused on testing.

Qualifications Wales said GCSEs would have to change in order to target wider skills needed for the future.

It is launching a consultation in November as part of its review on GCSEs and qualifications in light of the new curriculum, which will be taught from 2022, replacing traditional subjects with six "areas of learning and experience".

Speaking to BBC Sunday Politics Wales, Ms Howe said the current model of examination system "basically tests a child's worth on the basis of the amount of knowledge that they can regurgitate in a two-hour exam".

"[This] is not based on skills that all of the international evidence tells us will be needed in the future.

"Basically, the things that robots can't do, or artificial intelligence can't do - emotional intelligence, empathy, cooperation, teamwork, critical thinking."

She said the examination system was also at odds with the aims of the new 2022 curriculum, which is geared to getting pupils those skills.

"It focuses on silos, focuses on regurgitated knowledge and that's not fit for the future."

Image caption Sophie Howe was appointed the first Future Generations Commissioner for Wales in 2016

Ms Howe has produced a report, Education Fit for the Future: A White Paper, with possible ideas for replacements.

It has suggested "narrative-based assessment that tells employers exactly what learners are all about".

Prof Calvin Jones, who co-produced the report, said that means "a story about what a person likes and what that person struggles with", and "not in terms of a bland grade, or a mark out of 100".

He said this would mean a school leaver will have "a much better idea of how they can develop a successful career".

Ms Howe recommended replacements could be "more teacher-based assessment, assessment based on presentational skills, and skills in terms of interaction and teamwork".

Qualifications Wales is launching a consultation in November as part of its review on GCSEs and qualifications in light of the new curriculum.

They are due to confirm changes next year, with teaching for new qualifications to begin in September 2025.

Welcoming the report, Philip Blaker, from Qualifications Wales, said: "Qualifications will have to change if they are going to fulfil the ambition of the new curriculum and meet the evolving needs of learners and society.

"We believe there's still a strong case for 16-year-olds to continue to take qualifications that help to prepare and inspire them for life, learning and work.

"We'll be looking at how qualifications could be designed and assessed differently in future, and asking whether we should keep the GCSE name."

Sunday Politics Wales is on BBC Two Wales from 10:00 BST on 20 October, or catch up on the BBC iPlayer

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