Sunday, 28 July 2013

Are Home Educated children at a disadvantage in the exam arena?

I've been brooding upon this question for a while now.

Academically it makes perfect sense to opt, if one can, for the IGCSEs- they are undoubtedly more rigorous and demanding than the GCSEs.
For many home educators there is no other option- the IGCSEs do not require course work (or controlled assessment) and so they are solely exam based. In some areas it is possible to study GCSEs and then arrange for a controlled assessment at an exam centre but they are quite a rarity and usually the simplest choice is to turn to the IGCSE route...

For a majority of home educators then, as they are more in depth, a student will often end up sitting slightly less of these exams than had they done  GCSEs. Or it could be the fact that at school so many of the GCSEs are modular (in parts) that they tend to squeeze in as many subjects as possible. It is not unusual for schooled children to attain 12 or even up to 14 GCSEs. (!)
(It does make one wonder why though when some of these 'exams' are in questionable subjects and how useful and valuable they will be in their future lives?)

Still, if there are schooled children applying to colleges/Unis with 12+ GCSES how do the home educated children fare when they leave home ed with 6/7/8 IGCSEs? Will this place them at a disadvantage?
Plus, how does a parent deal with a child who may not manage with sitting exams as well as others? This may place the child at a sore disadvantage and one can then see how much easier really the whole school system is with it's modular exams (doing it in parts) and continuous cycle of re-sits...or re-writing assessments...

And, I am now contemplating whether these institutions actually recognise the superior quality of the IGCSEs, and do they even care? Will the home educated student stand a better chance with fewer IGCSEs against multiple GCSEs? Do they take this into account and acknowledge that these courses were harder ?

The other question which has been playing on my mind is the whole exam 'experience'.

Chatting to a dear friend the other day, she was explaining how many exams and tests her children have been placed through being at school. She claimed one of the only positive aspects of school was that it does prepare the student for exams. If children are being tested as young as 7 (many home educated children have't even begun formal lessons by then!) and then again through out the year, at the end of primary school, and then so on into GCSEs, it is plain to see that schooled children will have an advantage of at least being more comfortable with the whole exam experience, and therefore, may 'perform' better.

I am not claiming this to be a good revelation or something to be considered and as Catholic home educators the fundamental reason we keep our children out of school is to protect their God given soul. Nothing can ever be more vital than this.  So no matter how many times I am taunted by the idea that my children may be poorer performers in exams only through lack of experience, of course, or be at a disadvantage against their schooled peers in the exam arena, it is of no real consequence when the life of their soul, their moral character and their innate love of the Holy Catholic Faith can be better preserved and protected at home.

May the Holy Family pray for all Catholic families as they strive to educate their children in this world!


  1. From Charles Bradshaw;

    The quality of the GCSE' has seriously gone down hill. I spent most of May/June supervising public exams where dare I say it students weren't even bothered or aware of the "seriousness" of the exams they were taking. As a fluent French speaker I base a lot of my assumptions on language subjects, and I have to say the quality of the papers is quite appalling. You can get an A in GCSE French and have virtually no idea about the language' grammar and almost not be able to speak the language at all. There is an emphasis on dialogue and communication that is quite frankly pointless without the great bulk of the grammar and background that supports it. This seems to sum up the approach to exams these days: get an overview, pass the exam, done whereas there should be more of an in depth study which allows the student to truly know something about the subject he/she is studying. I definitely think universities are now looking for quality over quantity. More and more universities want interviews with candidates. They are looking for those who are more committed, have a serious and balanced approach to life and commitment, dependability. Before all of those things were assumed now they are a rarity which is sought after. For that reason I do believe that home educated or not, a quality student is much more sought after than ever before, both in terms of character and academics. (Well that's my personal view anyway, based on my own experiences)

    1. I agree! Have you ever compared the IGCSE syllabus for say, sciences, to the GCSE ones? You'll be astounded! I'm not sure how the difference in the languages fares, I will be interested to hear your opinion on that if you ever find enough free time to investigate! I'll show Marie your comments though as she's teaching herself both German and Spanish! (They've made the oral exam compulsory now though, which although is good is also putting her off a little!)

    2. From Charles;

      Well just the difference in the exam papers is often quite something although that being said personally I think the level could still go up a bit. My own schooling (in France) was all about the written and the classical subjects and even if you went down a science or literature route you still had to do all the subjects just with a different emphasis. The English system tends to specialise children from an early age into making choices which really they don't know about whilst a "general" education in the traditional disciplines including philosophy is frowned upon and even philosophy when it does exist at A level is profoundly non- Catholic. Good luck to Marie with the languages! If it's any consolation I found the Spanish oral at A level terribly easy, she just needs a list of the right kind of things to put into the exam and then you can easily get a straight A.

    3. Thank you for the very informative comments Charles.
      I would agree that the French system is superior to the English one in their range and depth of subjects, especially philosophy and religion.
      As you rightly say the English version 'Philosophy and Ethics' is profoundly non-Catholic and to be kept well away from!
      God Bless!