Great disservice done to students
Last updated at 13:38, Wednesday, 27 June 2012
I SHALL be delighted if education secretary Michael Gove succeeds in pushing through a return to an O-Level-style exam system.
While the Left are predictably outraged at such a prospect, surely only the most blinkered “progressive” educationalist could dispute that the current GCSE exam system (introduced by the Tories in a moment of madness) has, after years of blatant dumbing down, become virtually worthless as a measure of a pupil’s intelligence.
Take this comparison between a 1985 O-Level maths exam question and a 2011 GCSE Foundation paper (as published in the Sunday Times).
1985 question: “Solve the simultaneous equation 3x-4y=25”. 2011 question: “Write the number 1,345 in words”.
Detractors of Mr Gove’s plan claim it is regressive and unfair, because it would mark a return to a “two-tier” education system which will consign hundreds of thousands of less intelligent pupils to the scrapheap (to borrow one of the Left’s favourite clichés).
South Lakes MP Tim Farron was quoted in Monday’s Evening Mail thus: “Anything that creates a two-tier education is so utterly stupid in my opinion.” Mr Farron then implied that he himself is a product of that very two-tier system, possessing as he does a couple of CSEs, which, he believes, “dump children in the second division with no means of escaping”.
The fact that the CSE-encumbered Mr Farron went on to become a leading Liberal Democrat MP either neatly proves or entirely destroys his own argument, depending on one’s view of politics as a profession.
The nonsense of all this, of course, is that we already have in effect a two-tier exam system. GCSEs are split: with less academically able pupils sitting the Foundation GCSE which has a Grade C as the highest level of achievement. And while this propagates the “all must win prizes” myth (by allowing pupils with a clutch of E and F grades to trumpet the fact that they have passed their GCSEs), it surely fools no one.
In fact, “streaming” of secondary school pupils has always existed to a greater or lesser degree. Moving from my convent grammar to a comprehensive in 1979, I found my new school to be streamed into no fewer than 12 sets. Sets 1 to 4 were effectively the A stream, 5 to 8 the B Stream and 9 to 12 the C stream.
And while some of the B and C “streamers” went on to forge successful careers in later life, not all the A streamers did. Infer from that what you will.
The harsh reality is that life does not take place on a level playing field. The whole of society is tiered – from the class system to the football league tables to, yes, the education system. The decades which have been wasted dumbing down our exam system in order to pretend otherwise, represent nothing short of a national disgrace – and a great disservice has been done to generations of school pupils along the way.
First published at 13:32, Wednesday, 27 June 2012
Published by http://www.nwemail.co.uk
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"Realist", one of the main reasons GCSE results are improving is not that the exams are easier or that kids are brighter or that teachers are better, but that there are far more ways to find of getting help as students and teachers. By their very nature, examinations are predictable and teachers and students soon learn precisely what examiners are after. That's always been the case but now, in addition, exam boards and publishers are producing more and more support material online and students know how to access it. In my subject, English, even the set poets have websites with their poems explained.Now, this means students today are needing their memories far less but research and study skills far more. As teenagers are so used to using the web to discover information, this means they are discovering insights and attitudes they may not have thought of themselves. Also, the nature of exam questions has changed and so they need to understand rather than remember, apply rather than regurgitate. This is why comparing the exams of today and the 1960s is ridiculous: just as present GCSE students would find the old O Levels I took impossible without lots of tuition in advance, so teenagers from a generation ago would not be able to succeed in the present system. The world has moved on and so has the exam system. Simplistic howling about "dumbing down" is laughable to those who actually know the way exams have evolved over the years.
Hey Doug, if it's too much for you to bear to read a right wing paper like the Telegraph, the same story's in the Independent today!!
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