Change – For Better or For Worse

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In response to complaints of falling standards, Michael Gove, the Education Secretary in the UK, has announced a series of education reforms. These reforms include getting rid of the long-used GCSE exams (taken at age 16) in favor of the English Baccalaureate system. This means cutting courses which are deemed to be not rigorous enough and focusing more energy on those that are. And the classes being cut? Arts and technology.

It is fairly typical to hear that in response to economic strain, arts programs are cut to better suit budgets. Still, it seems more unique to hear that technology programs are being cut as well. As in the US, UK education heavily relies on standardized exams to judge just how well the education system is preparing its students, and schools are thus suited to the exams. The apparent failing of the GCSE system calls for changes of course, but what changes exactly?

The economy is becoming more and more dependent on technology, and like students must be prepared for exams, workers must be prepared for the extensive use of technology. In cutting arts and technology, students will, yes, have a great deal more time for math and sciences, but at what cost? This means not only narrowing the range of education students receive but also potentially driving out the students whose interests or talents lie more in those fields. The proposed solution is written recommendations for students who do not take the exams, but still cuts out all possibility of these students going on to university if they wanted to.

In removing opposite ends of the spectrum, the arts and technology, the UK education system will virtually remove all outlets of creativity in academics. The plans have been opposed by other members of the British government for many reasons and have dismissed Gove as out of touch with modern Britain, but will still go into effect.

What do you think? Are these effective measures in the face of changing times and a turbulent economy? Might the US eventually go in the same direction?

For more information, check out this BBC article on the announcement of the reforms.