Students with English as a Second Language Perform Well on the GSCEs
According the official GSCE figures released this week, students who aren’t native English speakers have outperformed students who have spoken English since childhood. Oddly enough, this went not just for the language portion of the exams but also for the other core subjects such as the different maths, most of the sciences and history. Students with English as a second language aced the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) exam which is the most important of the GSCEs, being the government’s key measure of a student’s success. They outdid their English-born classmates by a whopping 16.6%. The exam numbers showed that the lowest performing students were English-born, male students from working class backgrounds.
Lord Nash, the Minister of Schools says that over the past five years, the population of students who speak English as a second language has risen by a fifth of its number in 2009—there are now over 1.1 million non-native English speaking students all over the country.
One of the concerns brought up by teachers in a forum held last week was that non-native English speakers might have a hard time adjusting to the educational system. It was at the same forum that Lord Nash revealed the GSCE statistics. He said that their study showed a steady rising in the scores of students taking English as an alternative language (EAL) over the years: in 2012, the scores still favored native English speakers by 15%. Last year, the scores leveled out very quickly, the EAL students leaving only a margin of 0.5% in the difference between their scores and the native English speakers’ scores. The Minister of Schools says that they feel one good way to try to help native English speakers is to introduce more foreign languages: he says that this might be a good way to stimulate language skills, which seem to play a key role in getting high scores on the EBacc—studies have also shown that native English-speaking bilinguals get higher scores than their monolingual counterparts.
In a survey which the Department of Education conducted last summer, they gathered that most students who are native English speakers don’t bother to study for the GSCEs—because they feel they have a good grasp of the language, they tend to be more lax about preparing for the exam period whereas students who have learned English as a second language put in the extra effort to study the languages as well as the other core subjects because of the present anxiety that should they miss out on something, they will fail to understand the GSCE questions and not gain their English Baccalaureate.
They said that the surprising thing about these statistics, which show the validity of the aforementioned survey is that when their academic standing was evaluated outside the GSCEs, native English speakers did much better than the EAL students. 60.9% of students who did well in math, science, language, history and the humanities over-all were native English speakers. Only 58.3% of the non-GSCE achievers were EAL students.
The spokesman for the Department of Education said that they feel good about these statistics because they implemented the English Baccalaureate exactly for this reason—to properly evaluate a student’s overall performance. He said this helps level the academic playing field for students who would otherwise be at a disadvantage. He further states that their statistics have shown growth in the enrollment of students from different ethnic backgrounds, a considerable number of whom are from working-class or lower-income backgrounds.
He further states that the focus of the government is now turned toward the aforementioned native English-speaking, working-class male population who didn’t do so well in the GSCEs. They’re looking for different ways to help them perform and to achieve a high success rate for the EBacc. The Department of Education is looking to do this by conducting several surveys within the year which aim to identify ways in which the system can be improved to help these boys do better in school. All-in-all, both the Department of Education and the Minister of Schools are pleased with this year’s GSCE statistics.