23/08/2012 02:19 BST

GCSEs Bear No Relevance To Real Life - It's Time For Change Say Students

GCSEs bear no relevance to real life and need a drastic overhaul, students have told the Huffington Post UK.

While the argument over O-levels or GCSEs rages on between politicians, teachers and parents, the debate seems to have happened without the only ones who are actually affected by the exams.

So, on the day the nation's young people find out their results, we went straight to the horse's mouth and learnt what students really think of GCSEs.

"They're pointless," 16-year-old William riles. "The only thing I'm getting out of them is (hopefully) I'll get into sixth form. Once you've done that, they don't matter anymore; they're just a stepping stone for A-levels, a wake-up call for how hard they're going to be."

William, who attends a private school in Reading, told HuffPost UK: "So much of the stuff you learn in class is just completely unrelated to real life. They should be teaching more which will help you in the future. About [the effects of] drugs or smoking - that's the sort of thing we need to know; that's the sort of thing we're interested in learning about.

"Instead we learn about micro-organisms and sound waves, or surds - I can quite honestly say I will never, ever use those in my life.

"Why can't we learn about business or the economy? No-one offers those as GCSEs and they are subjects most people will come across at some point in their jobs. Even politics would be useful. It would be great to learn about current affairs.

"Especially when there are so few jobs at the moment - we need to learn skills which are going to help us, not information which will become redundant as soon as we leave school."

Matthew, who received his A-level results last week after spending six years at a comprehensive in Berkshire, agreed, saying GCSEs "did not even prepare me for A-level''.

"The jump between the two stages - even between AS-level and GCSE - is astronomical. You're taught everything on such a basic level but there's no skill, no independent learning.

"It's all about whether or not you can regurgitate facts in an exam or whether you can memorise a Shakespeare text - and yes, that's hard, but you're not actually learning any skills."

"And, contrary to popular belief, they are actually pretty hard."

Michael Shaw, deputy editor of the Times Educational Supplement, said the GCSE system needed to be scrutinised.

"Between now and 2015, the government is looking at extending compulsory education up to the age of 18. If this happens, the role of GCSEs will need to be considered as questions will arise as to why we're testing students two years before they leave school.

"But instead of constantly focusing on whether GCSEs are hard enough, we should be thinking what can we have in their place to make it more worthwhile for the students taking them.

"We have one of the most rigorous testing systems in the world - so why not look at alternatives to the GCSE?"

On Wednesday, the Institute of Fiscal Studies published an article on the role of GCSEs. Authors Paul Johnson - director of the IFS and Luke Sibieta - senior research economist, questioned the suitably of the exams in today's society.

They concluded: "Perhaps an even more radical rethink of the role of GCSEs and the structure of the public examination system is called for if we are to ensure that these exams serve a valid purpose and young people are best served for the future."