It's A-Levels, not GCSEs, Mr Gove ought to worry about

Going into her AS-Levels, our writer deplores how students are forced to narrow down

Click to follow
Independent Voices

Michael Gove’s proposed GCSE reforms have sent thousands of students and teachers into a spin – but in my opinion he’s totally missing the point.

Gove should spend less time changing a system that is fine as it is and concentrate on the real problem: A-levels. As a student in Year 11, aged 15, I’m being asked to decide by February which four subjects I will be studying at A-level.

This decision has a direct impact on the range of subjects I can apply to read at university and ultimately, it may affect my future career.

The trouble is that I have almost no idea about what I actually want to be doing for the rest of my life. Not only am I being urged to decide which four subjects will benefit me in future, but also I’m being told to stick to particular combinations.

For example at an open day to a sixth form college recently, I was told that they would be less likely to accept me if I chose a variety of subjects, mixing a science, maths, a language and a humanity. Instead I should stick to either sciences or humanities. I suppose that might lead me to being one of those graduates with an English degree and no idea what to do with it.

The pressure isn’t only coming from school however; family and friends all have a view on what I should be taking. From bribery dinners with my electro-engineering grandfather, to comments from my literature-loving mother such as: “You ARE taking English right?”, the decision isn’t getting any easier.

When I turn to friends for advice they tend to plant more seeds of doubt: “You can’t drop that! Do you realise how angry the teacher will be?” I expand my list from six possible subjects to eight, then agonise about how to cut it down to four again.

I’m not saying that the current system doesn’t benefit anyone. For those who are dead sure of what they want to be doing as a career, it’s perfect. No longer do they have to waste their time with subjects they couldn’t care less about, they can now concentrate on their true calling. But that is a very small minority of us and for most teenagers, this time can be immensely stressful.

I worry a lot about dropping all three sciences. I mean, what if I discover a hidden passion for particle-physics in my early 20s? The other day, after a gripping sci-fi show, I was convinced I wanted to be an astronaut.

But if I end up with only essay subjects, will I be able to cope with our increasingly tough job market?

For the sake of all us undecided teens, I propose that Gove should look into changing A-level education into something more similar to the French Baccalaureate. French students have the option of taking a science based course (S), an economic and social sciences based course (ES) or a Literature based course (L). They then all have to take French (which would, of course, be English in the UK), history, geography, a foreign language, philosophy, maths, and science. Their marks are then weighted more heavily towards the course they have chosen. This allows those who do want to focus on just one area to do so, without slamming the door on other possibilities.