The popular perception, validated by the Secretary of State in his choice of the vocabulary of ‘competitive dumbing down’, is that by its very nature, competition has led the boards to develop qualifications that are easier to do well in, in order to gain market share.
This obviously goes well beyond the allegations, made by the Daily Telegraph and others, that guidance given by examiners at teacher support seminars routinely includes information about exams which compromises their integrity (which it should be noted, have subsequently been found to apply to just six GCSE papers of a hundred prepared for 2012 examination).
The charge here is that exam boards have been deliberately lowering standards either by requiring less and less of students, year on year, in respect of the level of skills, knowledge or understanding they are expected to demonstrate, or by exaggerating the achievement of students by awarding progressively higher grades to comparable exam submissions from one year to the next (a practice usually referred to as ‘grade inflation’), in an effort to win custom.
To many, particularly (but not exclusively) to those on the left of the debate, this might seem at first pass a plausible enough account of what has been going on, but does it stand up to scrutiny?
Read the rest of this blog post on The Centre for Market Reform of Education website.