Exam boards 'living in parallel universe'

03 December 2010

In a major 4-page article published this week in the educational journal 'Make the Grade', the chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) provides one of the most extensive and critical assessments ever made of the school examination system in England.

Among many revealing comments he challenges political statements made with no evidence, easy questions given disproportionately high marks, and grade boundaries for a 'good pass' at GCSE (grade C) pushed to as low as 18 percent to ensure the success targets for Awarding Bodies (exam boards) are met.

This comes against the backdrop of the regulator Ofqual dismissing retrospectively the 2009 and 2010 GCSE science exams as 'too easy', and rejecting twice the revised proposals for the future curriculum and sample exam papers.

The Science Council, representing over 30 learned societies and professional bodies and over 300,000 scientists, has written recently to Michael Gove, Secretary of State, expressing concerns over declining standards and exam boards not complying with specifications.

Dr Pike and Professor David Phillips (President, RSC) will also be meeting next week Nick Gibb, Minister of State, to address these and related issues.

Worryingly, the exam boards continue to market their rejected curriculum materials on their websites, claiming the support of the science community.

After publication, Dr Pike commented: "In no other industry such as food, pharmaceuticals or cars would a provider be allowed to advertise demonstrably sub-standard products that had been condemned already by its regulator and customers. The exam boards are living in a parallel universe."

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