Maths and Science Skills the Focus of GCSE and A-Level Reforms

By Gerald Lynch on at

The Government's long-planned GCSE and A-Level examination reforms have been outlined today, revealing a stronger emphasis on maths and science skills across a range of disciplines. Teachers and students will experience a rare feeling of unity upon hearing the news -- teachers will be frustrated at a revised syllabus to teach and learn, while pupils will be annoyed at the stiff challenge each exam will now represent.

At A-Level, maths competency will have greater importance in physics exams, while knowledge of the role of central banks and financial regulation will be expected of economics students, as well as increased mathematics skills. Sciences will now include 12 practical experiments, while history lessons will cover a period of 200 years rather than 100. English literature A-Level students will study three pre-1900 works alongside a post-2000 text, while there will also be an "unseen text" during examinations. Programming and algorithms will become central to computer science lessons.

At GCSE level, knowledge of the human genome and nanoparticles will be expected of science students, while history lessons will now cover three time periods: 500-1500, 1450-1750 and 1700 to the present day -- each with a renewed focus on UK history. Geography lessons will include more mathematics, while languages exams will have fewer questions asked in English, and more translation tasks from English into the respective language being studied.

Brought in to address the "pernicious damage caused by grade inflation and dumbing down", according to Education Secretary Michael Gove, the new examinations will be phased in from 2015 through 2016. It's a window that some teachers have argued is too narrow to effectively implement, which may put the grades of students studying through the changeover period at risk. []

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