Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bursting The Inflated A-Level Bubble

Mickey Mouse A-levels and dumbed down exams. Too many fresh faces chasing too few places. Thousands of anxious pupils await the fickle finger of fate with yet more record results and record straight As. The inflated A-level results bubble lets everyone down.

After jumping through hoops it's time to jump up and down before the smile is wiped away and harsh reality kicks in.

The goal posts have been moved. The rules of the game have been changed. Dumbed-down exams do no-one any favours. Hard-working students know it's all a con but are forced to go along with the ride.

There are plenty of students who've studied their socks off to win a place at a proper university. The Orange Party takes its mortarboard off to them. But for most it's a reward for failure. Youngsters are left demoralised and fearful of a future with nothing to look forward to than a life on the dole and mountain of student debt.

The system breeds failure. Those at the bottom are given false hope and unrealistic expectations with a dodgy course at scum-bag poly. Those at the top are not being stretched and steered away from 'hard' subjects to 'soft 'studies' so schools and politicians look good.

No doubt Ed "Didn't I Do Well" Balls or one of his minions will be shouting the results from the rooftop. Never mind the quality feel the quantity. Another record pass rate from the most hard-working, cleverest pupils in the world. But there's nothing "progressive" about cheating deprived children out of a proper education.

Balls' cock-eyed schoolboy experiment in social engineering has been a miserable failure. The pipe-dream to improve social mobility has had the opposite effect.

Far from closing class divisions, New Labour policy is widening the gap with a system bending over backwards to be so 'equal' it fails almost everyone.

Youngsters deserve more than dumbed down exams and moving the goalposts to massage pseudo-educational credentials and ministers' egos.

State schools are shunning traditional academic subjects, as the government encourages bog standard schools to take ‘soft options’ with 'studies' in the title. More state school pupils should be going to proper universities to read proper subjects. But the system drives down standards.

A-levels are becoming 'Mickey Mouse' qualifications, according to the think tank Civitas, failing to stretch the brightest youngsters and the government is in the thick of it.

Teachers said better marks were not due to improved lesson standards or more talented candidates. The rise in A grades is because exams are easier to pass and students are granted multiple re-sits blamed in part on the 'modular' system, with courses broken up into bite-sized bits to boost scores.

The system is a shambles. The standard now so low it’s a national disgrace. No-one trusts A-levels not least students, parents, employers and universities.

Times are tough. Universities have been forced to cap places and forced to entice over overseas students to make ends meet. This year some 60,000 will find no place and no job to fall back on.

Ministers should have thought of that before setting off to cloud cuckoo land to get 50 per cent of teenagers into university.

Tories are determined to do something about dumbed-down exams promising to toughen up the examinations system, with a focus on harder questions and more credit for youngsters studying 'hard' subjects rather than the 'soft' options.

That's a welcome start but for years politicians of all colours have dabbled in the education game and A-levels have been reduced to a numbers game.

Today that's to be expected from a stalinesque government department of education, schools, dinner ladies and whatever which has built its fortunes on a lie.

The rot trickled down from Whitehall to Town Hall, as an ideological battle was fought between the do-ers and do-gooders. Rigourous study of an academic subject gave way to idealistic babble about the rounded individual.

Exams have no place in that School of Life. Teachers have been turned into learning support workers. Inspiring teachers imparting a body of knowledge to young, eager minds willing to learn are becoming a thing of the past.

A whole generation is being lost in a sea of confidence tricks, false hopes and unrealistic expectations. Just what is the point of giving everyone a worthless piece of paper? Call it a day and dole out a school leaving certificate.

Reward students with success in proper exams by scrapping crippling student fees and loans. Put more money into funding more places at proper universities for proper subjects.

Leave the universities to set their own entrance exams with their own exam boards. Isn't that where A-levels first started?


Unknown said...

Exams have not got Easier. They have got less perdantic.
20 years ago, I would need to go down to the local libary and spend hours coppying notes out of books, then use these notes to right my essay. Now 20-30 minutes of research online gets me far more information, of a far higher quality. Thus I have just saved three-four hours work, which I can now spend righting my essay. So exams have not become "Mickey mouse" in there nature, they have just modernised.
(same can be said in the office, how much easier is it to compleate tasks with computers now as apposed to 20 years ago)

Adam said...

I think you will find that the new (easier) syllabus of exams will not produce any full A level results until next year. I just completed my A-levels this year and I can assure you that they were just as hard as last year's, or any other years on the same syllabus for that matter, and I certainly did not go for any 'soft' options! I do, however, think that universities setting entrance exams is a good idea, but I don't see how the preparation of these exams could be approached easily by colleges.
I don't by any means think that the easier syllabus is a good idea, it's frustrating for me to know that with just one year's difference, students will have it much easier passing the same exams. The A* grade is supposed to fix this problem, but most of the time you will find that students capable of getting an A this year, even a relatively low one, will not find it particularly difficult achieving an A*. Clearly this will make A-levels look like even more of a charade. But I suppose we will just have to wait and see what happens.