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Anorak | A Is For Everyone

A Is For Everyone

by | 14th, August 2003

‘IF average temperatures had risen every year for the past 21 years, would that not be a good indication of global warming?

”We can’t read what it says, but it looks like an A”

But when A-level results improve for the 21st consecutive year, this is not proof that the exams are getting easier, but that standards in our schools are improving.

Pass rates for A-levels, the results of which are out today, have risen to a record 95.4%, which any maths student (if there were any left) could tell you is a 1.1% increase on last year.

”I hope that nobody tries to run the argument that standards are falling because there is absolutely no evidence of it on the basis of this year’s results,” David Hart, of the National Association of Head Teachers, tells the Telegraph.

But not even all Mr Hart’s fellow headteachers are convinced, far less the newspapers.

In what he calls ”a hidden scandal”, John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, tells the Times that students are deliberately taking easier A-levels to help them win a place at university.

Entries for psychology and media studies are up by 20% for instance, while the numbers taking modern languages and science subjects all fell.

”Since most university courses don’t discriminate between grades in different subjects, head teachers are bound to advise students to take subjects in which they can achieve the best grades,” Mr Dunford says.

”Maths, sciences and foreign languages are subjects that the country needs and it is totally bizarre that they are the hardest A-levels.”

To be fair, the Government is addressing this issue. Within five years, it says, all students will be guaranteed an A-grade in whatever subject they decide to do.

Of course, part of the problem is that it is in almost everyone’s interests to talk up A-level results – the pupils, the teachers and the Government.

But employers are not so convinced, with the Institute of Directors complaining that what used to be the educational gold standard is ”becoming completely meaningless”.

The Telegraph compares the situation in England with that in Scotland, where the percentage of passes in Higher English has actually fallen by 5.5%.

This has itself provoked a debate about the standards of literacy north of the border.

”The examination system south of the border,” the paper says, ”seems more determined to guarantee universal success than to provide useful information about the true state of the nation’s education.”

After all, how can we expect our children even to know the alphabet when they’ve never seen any letter other than an ‘A’?



Posted: 14th, August 2003 | In: Broadsheets Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink