Letter: GCSE criticism that shakes students' confidence

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your assertion (leading article, 2 September) that the variation between examination boards in this country is a great weakness appears to ignore a greater strength.

At present the different examining boards provide schools and pupils with not only a selection of different syllabuses - particularly useful in subjects such as History or English Literature - but, perhaps more importantly, with a choice of different examining styles. One pupil may be better served by a strong bias towards coursework with short answers at examination time, while another will excel at producing critical essays under the pressure of the exam room. Both pupils may be equally knowledgeable, intelligent and diligent, and neither deserves to be penalised.

What is vital is that the level of knowledge required in a subject, both by the various examining boards and by individual boards from year to year, remains constant. Centralising the examination system would not necessarily achieve this, and by removing the element of choice would limit a school's ability to match the education to the pupil.

Yours faithfully

PETER MILLAR HAGERTY

London, SW10

2 September

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