Recently the Government has proposed that GCSE Home Economics, along with various other GCSEs which have also been branded too ‘soft’, should be scrapped. It has stated that GCSE Home Economics will be discontinued from 2016, because it is reportedly not only too ‘soft’ but has too much overlap with GCSE Food Technology, a comparatively new GCSE subject.
By glancing at the specifications, it is clear that there are certain similarities between the two but that Home Economics focuses more on nutrition and Food Technology, on food production.
Should Home Economics be discontinued?
GCSE Home Economics is a very popular subject and has received many entries over the past few years. So it could be argued that axing Home Economics does a disservice to students. The concerns about the overlapping of Home Economics and Food Technology appear logical but does the narrowing down of GCSE choices ever actually benefit the education system? After all, GCSEs are compulsory and there are a wide variety of students who take them. Surely the more choice and flexibility GCSEs can offer students; the better chance there is of them catering for the individual needs, capabilities and desires of young people.
Indeed, Arabella Weir from The Independent has expressed the concern that getting rid of ‘soft’ GCSEs such as Home Economics will put some pupils off learning. In an article posted in June of 2014, she pointed out that for many less academic students these “less educationally rigorous” subjects provide realistic goals for them to aspire to. The fact that Home Economics GCSE is very popular shows that pupils have been finding it an enjoyable, worthwhile qualification to pursue. Is it really the Government’s place to assume they know what’s best for young people? The education system is supposed to serve young people the best way it can, as well as the country as a whole and if Home Economics is popular among students then should it really be removed from the curriculum?
What about employability?
However, it could be claimed that the Home Economics GCSE is not practical enough to be significantly useful for young people who aspire to work in the catering industry. One could argue this GCSE is more about teaching life skills than practical work skills that will benefit employability. But this criticism is based on the assumption that GCSEs are merely about employment and not preparing young people for life in general. And with the problems of obesity and other nutritional problems in the UK, the emphasis on health and nutrition within Home Economics GCSE may be more relevant and vital than ever.
What happens next?
Of course, questioning the status quo and updating the educational system is usually good practise but narrowing down GCSE options for young people seems backwards rather than progressive, especially considering GCSEs are compulsory for all pupils in the United Kingdom. Anyway, since Nicky Morgan has been appointed to replace Michael Gove as educational secretary, we will just have to wait and see what the future holds for Home Economics GCSE. But these proposed changes seem to be moving towards a less inclusive and more elitist curricula.