Plans to replace the GCSE with the English Baccalaureate threatens to make attempts to breach the divide between scientific and creative progress even more perilous, as Art and Music could be scrapped from the curriculum.
The ‘English Baccalaureate’ requires a minimum of C-grade success in English, Maths, Science, a Humanities subject and a language, but schools will still have the option of offering the out-dated GCSE systems to those wishing to develop their musical, dramatic and artistic abilities in an academic environment. The fear is that in the face of government pressure and leader boards, many schools may decide that they will be unable to cater for these creative students who would otherwise have benefitted from the GCSE system. The scientifically minded left-brainers among us may well rejoice at this sweet victory over the “slackery” of non-academia – these plans appears to promote the virtues logic, memory and textbooks, hopefully resulting in the churning out of a deliciously analytical, white-coated, biro wielding new generation of mathematicians, physicists, professors, politicians.
However the marginalisation of creative students may result in thousands seeking alternative performing arts institutions to further their creative progress. Far from the intended spike in academic subject enrolment, this would actually discourage musically talented 16 year olds from receiving the broad range of education necessary for future employment. You could argue that these individuals would more be more suited to such an academy anyway, but the issue still lies in the growing rift between the creative and the academic. A catastrophiser may start to worry that in the space of a few short years, Britain would be populated by two groups – beret-donning illiterates and emotionless machines with underdeveloped worldly appreciation.
It is unlikely that we will be subjected to such a dystopia; however this Baccalaureate introduction puts us at genuine risk of failing to provide our young people with the opportunity of a well-rounded education and the development of both their left and right brains. Multiple professions are wholly reliant on the harmonious merging of imagination and number crunching. Take Architecture for example – one cannot design a sky scraper without both engineering skills and a strong understanding of the aesthetic.
The creative industries of our nation currently account for £16 billion in exports and employ over two million people. Our vibrant cultural identity and a large portion of our revenue are from the music, design and tourism industries – all at risk of being seriously wounded by a stock education system which may force students to pick sides in the battle between the two necessary forces of creative exploration and conventional academic development.