chapter  6
17 Pages

The Humanities

WithHarry Tolley

The response of the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) examining groups to a request for copies of their syllabuses and specimen questions in the humanities illustrates the first problem facing a writer about assessment in this part of the secondary school curriculum: defining what is meant by the humanities. In the absence of Criteria for integrated humanities it is not surprising that GCSE syllabuses bearing this title appear to have followed the guidelines laid down for social science with regard to subject content. The National Criteria for the humanities laid down that a minimum of 20% of the final examination marks should be devoted to school-based assessment, allowing schemes ranging from 80% board-based to 100% school-based. The need to differentiate across the ability range and encourage positive achievement has also brought new challenges to those responsible for the board-based components of assessment, which are still an important part of most syllabuses in the humanities, especially in geography and history.