Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Shopping Around for Exam Boards

I wrote about how schools shop around for exam boards that 'are most suited to their pupils' ie easiest, in my book (which you should buy today) and it looks like 5 Live have got round to reading it too.

Entering huge numbers of pupils for worthless qualifications which count as 4 GCSE's is a good trick but if a school is under pressure to improve their actual number of GCSE passes then they look for the board with the most modular courses (ie more opportunities to resit exams), plenty of coursework (which the pupils can be 'guided' on) and bizarre new subjects which the board is keen to promote (and therefore have a low pass mark). In the serious subjects, look for slight variants such as '21st Century Science'

Schools that need to improve will have all their best teachers taking the C/D borderline classes as there's no point in wasting them on the bright children or the ones who can't read.

Having more than one exam board introduces competition and you don't have to be a genius to work out what that does to exam standards.


Anonymous said...

Where did the situation of multiple resits on course modules come from? I was in the first year of GSCEs back in 1988 (to hoots of derision from my maths teacher of the time) and did my A levels in 1990.

At the time, if you failed an exam, it was tough s**t. Excluding poor teaching, if you failed you either weren't clever enough or didn't work hard enough. If you wanted to redo it, you had to redo it all.

When did this stringency change?

jaljen said...

Probably when some dolt set a target and claimed he'd resign if the target wasn't met.

So if I had to limbo beneath a bar or forfeit my salary I'd set the bar at about 6'. That would be OK as I'm 5'2". You need to be sure.

Anonymous said...

Somewhere down the line it's all gone wrong.

I'm elistist in the sense that I believe exams should be able to sift and filter ability properly. There shouldbe a way of differentiating between higher and lower ability properly. Somewhere along the road, the difference between equality of opportunity and equality of ability for students has been lost and muddled.

When an exam system allows multiple retakes and lots of students get As and A stars then it has to be less rigourous.

Or am I a stick in the mud?

Don said...

When I took my O levels and A levels in 1964 and 1966 respectively, you got just one chance of a resit at Christmas, before the syllabus and all the set texts changed for the following summer and you'd have had to start again from scratch.

Anonymous said...

The problem is largely two fold. Firstly, we have no social mechanism anymore to adequately deal with large numbers of academically weak students. We don't have large scale manufacturing or industry or pits and steel works for the thick ones to go to now. That was how we managed to sort out the wheat from the chaff. If you were bright you went on to Grammar schools and university. If you weren't you went down the pit or worked in the local factory.

Now the idea that some people are going to fail is seen as blasphamy. We live in a culture where we believe all can have equality of outcome and everyone has to pass, because we don't have enough avenues open to us to deal with the less able members of society anymore.

Until we go back to selection by ability and find enough manual labour jobs to cope with vast numbers of academically inferior people, then we won't ever be able to rectify this mess. Until we wake up to that fact we will have to continue with the idiotic believe that all can pass and that elitism through merit and ability is wrong.

FatBigot said...

TO Anon at 17:15 :

The problem goes deeper than this. Fundamentally any UK worker has to do something that someone in China cannot do for much less money. For instance the detail and quality on Hornby model trains shot up when they outsourced to China, but the prices remained pretty much static.

There is nowhere "for the thick ones to go". However are they thick or simply demotivated? Would it not be better to lower the school leaving age to 14, but give them the right to upto 10 years of education whenever they feel ready for it?

Ben said...

Not true!

That was the excuse used to invent the Qualifications and Curriculum authority, and we all know what that did to standards.

But competition making things worse? When I went to 6th form we chose the school because it was a good academic 6th form. The school chose JMB sciences because they were known to be better (i.e. harder).

Everybody knew that a Nuffield B was a JMB C.

It's only government that can make us (pretend to) treat unequal qualifications equally - like all those worthless qualifications which are "worth the same" as 4 GCSEs.

No, they aren't. Ask any employer!

Standards were set by the likes of JMB. If the Nuffields fell too far behind, nobody took them seriously, and they lost customers.

There was no "race to the bottom", because the customers (parents and students) and THEIR customers (employers and universities) are NOT STUPID.