Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Why Not Scrap The Exam And Just Give Out The A*s?

2007 AQA Biology GCSE (3 modular tests, spread out over 12 months so you only need to revise a few topics at a time) 28 marks out of 45 (62%) on the first paper gets you an A* Grade. Subsequent papers are expected to be graded on the same basis.

1982 JMB Biology O Level Paper (Exams cover all of two year syllabus) 80.1% required for a Grade A, according to the examiners report.

Dumbing down? No, no, no. The pupils are just getting cleverer.

The two kids that I feel sorry for are:

1) The highly intelligent pupil who has worked hard and would always have answered 95% of the questions correctly. They receive no real recognition of their talent.

2) The kid who scrapes a 'C' Grade and is told how clever they are. They are encouraged to study the subject further and later discover after wasting much time and effort that they have no real academic ability whatsoever. They have been completely conned.

Oh, for non teachers- A* is the grade above A nowadays (Don't ask me why)


Anonymous said...

I would argue that the main reason for all this dumbing down is based around the fact that we now live in a more "equal" society, and are no longer shackled to a two tier educational system.

The main problem is two fold but all stems from the same source; the industrial and ecconomic changes that were started under Thatcher. Unfortunately, we no longer produce anything, we don't have any factories, mines, textile mills or steel works. Oue ecconomy is geared around a tertiary or service sector model. Therefore, whereas 30 - 40 plus years ago the less academic students would have left school and gone and worked down the pit or in the factories, these options are no longer available, because it is cheaper to import these things than to produce them in our own country.

The government have left the education system no choice but to somehow force the less bright kids out the doors with qualifications that will allow them to work in an ecconomic model that they simply cannot cope with.

Added to which is the governments drive to get at least 50% of the population to university. I'm afraid it comes down to square pegs and round holes.

I'm afraid that until we realise that a vast number of people are simply incapable of working within these new service style jobs, and will only ever be able to manage working in Primary or Secondary sector employment, the standards will continue to be dumbed down.

Human beings are not machines, they cannot evolve so rapidly and adapt to the pace of life as it is now. As much as I honestly wish our world could be more egalitarian and equal; people are not made equal and some will never possess the academic abilities needed to survive under our current ecconomic model.

A two tier educational system is the only way forward I'm afraid. We need to reopen factories and mills and the like so the less educationally able can still find meaningful and managable employment for their abilities and let the academic students go to university.

Anonymous said...

Anon, you said "We need to reopen factories and mills and the like"

And what should we do when they go bust within a few months because just about everything can be made for a fraction of the price in China?

State subsidies? That would take us nicely back to the economic mayhem of the 1970s.

There is absolutely no reason whatsoever why all but the stupidest cannot be taught to read, write and do arithmetic, which is all that employers want for most service jobs.

MacDuff said...

I agree about the dumbing down - but who is responsible?
One would have thought that of all groups teachers themselves have the biggest input into these decisions.

Anonymous said...

I am under the impression that when I sat my A levels the mark achieved by the top 5% was what was needed to get an A grade. In other words if you got an A you knew that you were in the top 5%.

Universities knew what an A grade meant and employers also had a good idea.

Now-a-days someone can present a certificate with an A* on it and all it seems to proove is that they can spell their name correctly.

We are told that education standards are improving so much but how do you explain someone walking out the school gate with top marks for English and turning up functionally illiterate at their first job.

Sue Bailey said...

"The highly intelligent pupil who has worked hard and would always have answered 95% of the questions correctly. They receive no real recognition of their talent."

I was that child. I received *no* decent language education prior to my A'levels because the school insisted on mixed ability teaching for language classes. This was due pressure from the education authority, I believe - or at least that was what I was told when I plucked up courage to complain: certainly the teachers who were meant to be teaching these ridiculous classes knew it was a waste of time.

GCSEs were a joke: e.g. English coursework where you could hand it in, get it marked, rewrite it, get it marked again, repeat ad nauseam until you got the grade you wanted. Ditto history. Science modules where your top x marks were submitted, so if you didn't have x top marks, you did some more experiments.

Oh, and this was back in 1986-88. I was in the first school year to be given GCSEs. We were specifically told they were being introduced so more people would get top grades. Things are crap, but the crapness isn't new.

Anonymous said...

True, but remember that we have crap inflation. Every year the crap gets a little bit crappier.

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