Why the EBacc Lacks Substance

‘‘The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) is a school performance measure. It allows people to see how many pupils get a grade C or above in the core academic subjects* at key stage 4 in any government-funded school.’’ (DfE, 2016)

* English, mathematics, history or geography, the sciences, a language

There have been some very loud voices criticising this narrow measure and its exclusion of any arts subjects, not least the National Society for Education in Art and Design [NSEAD] – for example, see: http://www.nsead.org/downloads/Baccalaureate.pdf.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines Baccalaureate as: ‘‘an examination intended to qualify successful candidates for higher education.’’  On this basis, the EBacc is inappropriately named – as well as conceived.  GCSEs alone do not facilitate university entry, as they are a stepping stone to further study (post-16), not higher study (post-18).

The highly respected International Baccalaureate [IB] Diploma is a post-16 qualification, aimed at developing ‘‘students who have excellent breadth and depth of knowledge – students who flourish physically, intellectually, emotionally and ethically.’’ The arts have a dedicated place in the six subject groups which make up the IB Diploma curriculum.

Here is a simple ‘doughnut’ analogy to illustrate the difference between the IB Diploma and the EBacc…

The IB Diploma is like a plate of juicy, jam filled doughnuts with shiny icing and multicoloured sprinkles. There is colour, flavour and crucially choice.

stock-photo-fresh-donuts-stand-235612729

 

In stark contrast the EBACC is like a partially eaten, ‘bog standard’ doughnut: bland incomplete and unsatisfying. The only choice is ‘Hobsons’.

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Our education system should excite young people about learning and allow them to pursue their interests. With an increasing focus on ‘pupil voice’ in many schools, in line with the aims of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, it seems very wrong that choices are being taken away from our young people.  Worryingly, the EBacc undermines the study of art for both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, as by its current definition, it excludes art and thus implies that art is neither a core subject nor an academic one.   This is certainly not the view of the ESAG for Art, Craft and Design.

Dr Emese Hall (University of Exeter)

Sketchbooks

Sketchbooks: Loughborough University has published research into the use of individual and exploratory sketchbooks. The art foundation diploma at Loughborough University develops students’ approach to creating highly individual and exploratory sketchbooks, with a focus on first-hand drawing and visual notation, and exploration of new ideas, materials and techniques. The course tutors present an interesting critique of ‘A’ level sketchbooks developed as evidence for examinations.
‘… Many students come to us with sketchbooks which are more like “presentation books” rather than a real record of their exploration, or a source of personal visual reference. The emphasis on good presentation means that students often have to un-learn habits they have developed before coming to university, such as decorating pages, making elaborate backgrounds and titles, rather than focusing on first-hand visual research, developing and working up their ideas, which is what is required on a foundation course. The sketchbooks which we see at interview are often superficially attractive and colourful, but this can be at the expense of real content and substance. The expectations of annotation at A level often lead to students writing at length in these books, but the writing is often too descriptive, rather than analytical or evaluative. To download the report click here