Published Tuesday, 18 September 2012
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This came as a result of the Westminster government revealing the most radical shake-up of the examinations system in a generation.
UK Education Secretary Michael Gove proposes to replace GCSEs with new qualifications known as a new English Baccalaureate Certificate in secondary schools in England.
The new-style qualifications will do away with the use of modules which allow GCSE students to retake parts of their course.
They will also cut back heavily on the use of classroom assessment and coursework and return to the emphasis on a traditional end-of-year exam, putting an end to what Mr Gove called "grade inflation and dumbing down".
If they are approved, new courses in English, Maths and Science, will be introduced in 2015 with exams to be taken two years later.
Many have compared the new qualifications to the traditional O-level style tests which focused on an end of year exam - that system was abolished and replaced by GCSEs in 1988.
John O'Dowd has conceded that the GCSE brand may now be fatally flawed due to Mr Gove's proposals.
The Sinn Féin minister insisted that the exams "are fit for purpose."
"I think Michael Gove has been unfair on the candidates who've sat GCSEs not only this year - but in previous years."
He described the exams as "proven recognition of work, of the ability of the individual, and the ability of that individual to learn for each subject."
The MLA said he will now take time to consult with his advisors and his department to decide the best way forward.
He added: "I want to be confident, our young people want to be confident, and our schools want to be confident that their exam certificate carries with it weight and will allow them access into universities in any part of these islands."
The minister continued saying O-levels were abolished 25 years ago - and that GCSEs test the ability of the individual learner.
At present, around 1 in 4 students in Northern Ireland sit their exams with, and have them marked by, the English board.
Hazelwood Integrated College principal Kathleen Gormley believes that figure may fall greatly, due to the proposed changes.
She agrees there needs to be reform - but not the Michael Gove way.
"I actually think Michael Gove likes to put the cat among the pigeons.
"Here we have another Conservative government deciding that they will change education here - and change education possibly for change's sake rather than for the good of our children."
The Newtownabbey principal said she has concerns that this year's GCSE results recipients may feel undervalued and feel that their certificates are not worth what they should be.
Mervyn Storey MLA is the chair of the Assembly's Education Committee.
He said that Mr Gove has raised serious concerns over the robustness of the exam process in England.
The DUP MLA said any changes made to the Northern Ireland education system should not be "a kneejerk reaction" to changes in England.
He added that Mr O'Dowd needs to consult widely with the Northern Ireland education family, and do so for "the right reasons and right motives."