Monday, January 12, 2009


A new orgnisation called Ofqual has been set up to keep an eye on exam standards. What I don't understand is whether they are supposed to maintain them as they are now or return them to something sensible.

I can't speak for other subjects but Maths and Science are much easier now than they were 25 years ago. A combination of modular exams that can be resat, coursework where just about anything gets marks, questions that have changed from rigorous fact or calculation to waffle plus the simple measure of lowering the pass marks have improved results tremendously.

No need to take my word for it though, just ask any University lecturer in Engineering for example, about how they have had to make their courses easier over the last two decades or read the complaints here or here, from those who are desperate for employees who can read, write and do a few easy sums.


system bros said...

Sounds a bit like 'Offal'. Exams are easier now - its a fact. I had to take my Maths GCSE to get into university 10 years after I'd failed O level maths 3 times. I got an A; I was embarrassed because the work was so easy. An enduring memory was colouring in hexagons as part of my course work - can't remember why though, tesselations or something. Anyway it certainly didn't help me doing a computer science degree, I had to get my O level books from the attic to learn the maths that was useful.

Chapati said...

Our maths lecturers had the same problem - the jump from school to uni was so large, simply because we had been spoon fed and given a pretty easy ride at school, and also because we were not covering the right sort of material.

The introduction of an A* at A level is taking almost a backward step. It would be so much better to achieve a B in a very hard exam than it would be to achieve an A in an 'easy' exam.

It has got to the point where anything less than an A is not good enough for a lot of schools, and for a lot of universities.

Fiz said...

Language Departments at Unis are having to teach their students grammar as schools aren't teaching it till Sixth form and they are expected to to go from none to all of it in weeks and was a major factor in why my daughter dropped A level French. I started to learn French grammar at 11 and it was easy. Wait until a teenager is 16 and they are clueless.

Lilyofthefield said...

How on earth do you do a French GCSE if you've never learnt the Grammar? Do you no longer (don't know why I'm even asking this) have to compose sentences of your own in French?

Sooner or later a special elite exam will come into being and we will have returned to the old O-level/CSE split.


Anonymous said...

Easy, dim LOTF. Je voudrais un coke. Je voudrais help s'il vous plait. Je voudrais un speaker de English merci.

Almost A-Level standard,

Fiz said...

Lily, their teachers do it for them and they learn them off by heart. Hand on the Bible...both my daughters had that.

Rich said...

The "read the complaints" link doesn't go to complaints, just Ofqual again.

Fee said...

When I told my daughter's English teacher that my proof reading of her essays included a "free grammar and spell check", she advised me not to bother .. apparently these things "aren't important these days".

Which explains why school leavers come in to my workplace with such an appalling grasp of the basics and have to be monitored closely when writing to customers.

In my day (and I'm still on the sunny side of 40, if only just) we had to know the basics as you lost marks in exams for poor spelling and grammar.

So yes, I agree that standards have slipped, and slipped a heck of a lot.

Caz said...

I teach music, and the GCSE and A Level I'm teaching now contain probably about a third of the things that I had to do when I was at school - so it's not just maths and science.

I also teach french, and yes, I remember learning how to conjugate regular verbs very early on - but now, it's a case of leaving it until it's really necessary, and even then, we're only teaching the 1st, 2nd and 3rd person singular. (And no, the kids don't even know what that means!).
But to the person who mentioned spoon-feeding; I'll own up to that sometimes, but it's simply because the majority of the kids I teach have absolutely no idea (or inclination) how to work anything out for themselves, so to get anything done, it's spoon-feeding or nothing.