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Exams and Whatnot
Today's whinge is sponsored by the a-level exam results, as could have been predicted. For years now, everybody has been insisting that the exams are obviously getting easier, due to the fact that
  1. A higher percentage of people are passing
  2. A higher percentage of grades are A's
Well bullshit. For starters, the silly new AS system is in part responsible for people passing more. If somebody gets a grade D or E in an AS, then they're probably not going to continue it for another year. If somebody gets an A in it, then they've practically passed already. The logic is that if you're not doing well, give up, and as a result, the only people taking a-levels are the ones who already know they'll do well. I'm not sure that that's entirely the right attitude to take, but it certainly seems like the way things are going.

Secondly, it's being complained that a higher percentage of people are getting grade A. So? Let's not work with percentages - let's look at the total number of people getting the grade each year, as a percentage of the population rather than the number of people doing a-levels. And more to the point, what does it even matter? An A grade is the same as a C grade by the time you hit twenty one anyway. Because you're either out of Uni and thus have a degree (which supercedes a-levels, obviously), or you've been working for three years, and have built up sufficient experience in a job that an employer will take that over an inexperienced person with good results. No qualification lasts for more than a few years after you get it - experience and further learning are more valuable. So do we really care what people are getting in their a-levels?

I've always maintained that Chris Woodhead is a tit. Because he is. I quote the BBC:
But Chris Woodhead, former chief inspector of English schools watchdog, Ofsted, said the prospect that every student might pass made a mockery of the idea of exams to differentiate between pupils.
So, if I've got this right, what he's saying is that the point of exams is to separate the intelligent people from the stupid people - to provide a clear indication of who is smart and who is not. It's not about rewarding achievement, it's about punishing those without brains, and the idea that the stupid might someday pass a-levels upsets him. That's an interesting opinion he implied he has there - no wonder every fucking teacher in the country hated his guts with a passion.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a fan of the stupid in any way, they irritate me - I'm a massive intellectual snob and I don't mind admitting it. I'm certainly not proud of it, but stupidity just grates my nerves. But the notion that we should always have a way to identify stupid people is, in and of itself, stupid. Surely the logical thing to do would be to provide a better indication of what results mean. More grades are needed. We need to identify those people who score highest, while still rewarding in some way those who score lower. If you get six marks off an A, then dammit, you should have a certificate to prove that. If you failed a subject, but came close, then rather than saying "You failed, congratulations on becoming a statistic", these people should be given an award anyway, for trying, and for at least getting some questions right.

It shouldn't be about failure - it shouldn't even be possible to fail. It should be about rewarding what people can do, not what they can't. So if more people passed this year, good. I'm happy for them, and I wish them all the best, because nobody deserves to be told they've failed.

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Sorry, I have to correct you on something you said:

Chris Woodhead is a tit

I refute that ascertion. He was a useless right-wing opinionated bastard whose sole aim seemed to be to piss off the teaching profession. So I guess he was a success, which must explain why New Tory - sorry Labour - didn't sack the sod when they won the election. Which is not to say that all teachers are fantastic and that they all work really hard etc. I have certainly come up against a few who should have been helped either to improve or to find another job. But there have been some fantastic teachers who taught some/all of my kids, some who taught me when I were a lad (and there were some crap ones even in the olden days), and some who are friends; and I have seen the time, effort and dedication that they put into the job. 9 - 3:30? Not a chance.

Oh sorry, your rant was about exams. Seems I have gone off-topic a bit.

One thing that people seem to miss when discussing the ever rising pass-rates is that onceupon a time the A-level was used to limit the number of people wishing to attend university. After all, places used to be much more limited than now. So if you weren't likely to get good grades the school didn't encourage you to take A-levels. Therefore pass rates were artificially kept down. It was the same when I was doing my accountancy exams. The pass rates were seldom above about 35% which means that 2 out of every 3 people taking the exam didn't make it. Were they too stupid? Or was it a just a way of limiting the number who would eventually join that elite band of crooks (I didn't - I was too stupid).

Oh well, back to work

Erm - I couldn't be bothered to comment due to time constraints!

Standards are falling though - Uni's have had to introduce basic skills tests and remedial maths etc lessons for modern A level candidates (i.e. edinburgh, loughborough)! This being, apparently, cos the curriculum for certain subjects has changed significantly at A level standard where Uni's have not changed their standards (I avoided saying lowered there)!

They've also had to pull in mentors to help - i.e. ME!!!!!!!!! ;0)


Yeah, I helped taught First Year Geography while I was at FSU and Lancaster and I compared A level papers in geography from 1995-9 to ones from the 60's and 70's. They were certainly more academic back then, without question, and significantly more difficult in a lot of respects. The issue, I believe, is that today the exams have more 'real-world' relevance, which often makes them much easier from an academic view point. But also a lot more useful outside of academia.

ooh! I helped taught! I will attempt to veil this blatant screw up by pretending it is a deeply complicated new tense which has recently been developed.


Infact, everything I wrote is a grammatical fuck up. My point is now moot.

Work appears to be affecting me more than usual today.

Well exactly, that's the thing - it's not so much that things are getting easier, they're just getting better. Kids are bound to do better on a paper that tackles familiar real-world problems than one which requires just an exact knowledge of what was taught.

Frankly, I couldn't care less about what Academia has to offer the world, because it's mostly crap. It's mostly irrelevant, and is only important to those few people who value it. A better knowledge of how the world works is infinitely more useful, and is what kids should be being taught...

Or something....

And the world works in the way we shape it - and who shapes it? Erm!!!!!! :0P

dumb people are not doing alevels
people are dropping subjects they are not good at
the stuff i learnt for maths a level was taught to miri's dad when he was in year 8.

heh. of course the pass rates are going to go up.
and obviously, now that people are being taught different things at different time...

dammit. i've forgotten what i was going to say.
nevermind. pretend it made sense.

Hmm. I saw something on BBCi the other day about rising pass levels. Apparently schools are now teaching what they reckon is going to appear on the exam, rather than a wider range of topics within a subject, so teaching is more focused on exam results than on education..

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