I don't think it matters whether it's O-levels, GCSEs or whatever. Kids are just getting taught how to pass exams rather than actually learning about subjects. I remember the second half of my last year of GSCEs and A-levels just consisted of going through mock test papers.
No offence to anyone but the thing about education is that everyone has been through it, so feels that qualifies their opinion to be of insight. It really irks me when people make such sweeping comments.
I'm a teacher of history and I teach my kids how to pass the exam by covering the topic material in a way that hopefully inspires them and makes them think but shows them exactly what the exam board wants so they can pass those exams well. That is, pupils who are very knowledgeable about the topic and able to construct inquiries by providing and explaining supporting detail which shows clear understanding of conflicting arguments in analysis of a question or interpretation.
So am I creating mindless exam robots or helping provide the subject enjoyment and skills necessary to be an independent and aware citizen?
I can't speak with real authority about other subjects but 'teaching to the exam' should be a goal of any teacher with an externally assessed class in front of them in my department. Society has provided these benchmarks and parents and students trust us to help them do well against them. Of course there are those that do this in the wrong way I can give you the example of a GCSE teacher who sent a crowing email to the whole school about how well their class had done in their recent Controlled Assessment module - and they had done. However those of us that had achieved a relationship with our classes beyond that of simply 'Learn this' knew from the pupils involved that they had been provided with a glowing exemplar of the task and told to basically paraphrase it.
Back OT, Gove is the classic Tory wanting to look conservative, someone who has been through education and believes at least for the soundbite or the faithful that his view has more credence than than that of those actively involved in the issue he is pontificating on. This all smacks of a Tory about turn in the making but no doubt there are plenty of educational reactionaries in Parliament who agree with blanket accusations like 'it wasn't like this in my day - exams are too easy', 'students only learn how to do well in exams', 'too many teachers lack decent qualifications' and so forth.