Last year 18,000 students sat an English International GCSE in the UK. This year it is a staggering 78,000 students, a rise of 430%. So why have schools suddenly abandoned the more traditional GCSE qualification?
The first thing to remember is that almost everyone in the system wants the student to pass. The exam boards compete amongst themselves for the school’s business; Private schools are under pressure to deliver glittering exam results; Maintained schools need a minimum of 41% of students to achieve a grade C or more, or face the dreaded OFSTED inspection.
Parents, obviously, want their child to do well too. And as for the students themselves, well despite what we occasionally hear, they want to do well and most are prepared to put the neccessary hours in to achieve this.
So the point is, everyone is invested in the student achieving their full potential, and wants them to follow the best route toward that goal. This is reflected in the dramatic rise in popularity of the IGCSE. There are several principle reasons for this happening, however.
Firstly, there is last years’ English GCSE exam marking debacle. This severely dented the faith that English teachers had in their students being awarded a fair mark. and subsequently, with the International GCSE largely out of ministerial control, it now looks a more attractive proposition.
It should also be noted that the IGCSE is a good option for those students who are better at examinations to shine. There is no coursework component and therefore no possibility of exam paper marks being diluted.
Secondly, from a school point of view the IGCSE is equivalent to the GCSE in the schools table. This means entering a student for both the GCSE English and the IGCSE English and then taking the best result is, in borderline cases, a no brainer. Especially given the aforementioned lack of coursework.
Finally, there is often the question: ‘Is the IGCSE easier’? In general the answer seems to be no. Private schools have, for years, been taking the IGCSE and openly stating that they are doing so to improve academic rigour and better prepare their students for A levels. However, some teachers are claiming that the IGCSE English exam was easier than the GCSE exam. Whether this translates into grades will depend entirely on where the grade boundaries are set. We will all find our tomorrow…