Friday, June 06, 2008

Educa-shun, Educa-shun, Educa-sham

A top university is to set its own entrance exams because the A-levels are not worth the paper they are written on. And the student drop out and failure rate at the so-called 'universities' is soaring. With A-levels, dumbing down just got dumber.

It's all a sham. A New Labour wheeze to keep down the unemployment figures and justify the billions of pounds spent trying to achieve the ridiculous target of getting half of all school leavers into higher education. 

We all know it. And the sad thing is, the young people know it too - but they have to put up with it. What else can they do?

Once, anyone suggesting a dumbing down of exam results was derided by New Labour, shot down in flames and humiliated. "We should be celebrating students' success," they said. 

Now the words have an empty and hollow ring. The same tired line is still trotted out but no one listens anymore.

Of course A-levels have got easier. That was the plan all along. How else can you hit an unrealistic target? But then came the problem. The universities couldn't cope with the huge influx of students. So the vocational-based polytechnics were turned into universities to soak up the places. Still not enough. Well now students can take 'degree' courses at the old Technical and Art (FE) colleges.

Of course students will drop out - just look at where they're dropping out from. The rebranded former polys, offering studies in anything to anybody, to boost their numbers and income. 

And what are students left with if they continue? Yet another worthless bit of paper and a crippling debt from the university fees. 

In August, we'll still have to put up with the BBC running footage of gleeful sixth formers jumping up and down celebrating their four A* A-levels in silly subjects.

Soon New Labour will just give away A-levels as a Leaving Certificate (rebranded as Diplomas) and a degree if you enrol and just try your best to stay the course. 

The answer? Cut back on the number of A-levels subjects offered to only those that suit the rigours of academic study. And introduce a tight check on standards. Make them worth something again. 

Cut back on the number of so called 'universities' and range of degree courses offered (and make sure engineering is included). And when students do manage to get in - through their own hard work and effort - study for a first degree should be free and with a generous study allowance. 

If A-levels, university entrance and a first degree become something tough to aim for, properly rewarded, it will be an achievement to be proud of and actually mean something.

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