Anorak News | Drinking To Success

Drinking To Success

by | 22nd, August 2005

‘JUST imagine how clever we’d all be if we’d stop binge drinking?

On Monday, the Mail had read a report by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology which said that drinking large amounts of booze in a short space of time is a “distinctive characteristic of the British drinking culture”.

But we’re not drinking for the sake of it – we’re celebrating our A levels. The papers had it that nearly everyone was on course to pass an A level – even some people who hadn’t taken one.

The Times brought the good news that almost a quarter of girls were predicted to achieve a top A grade in the subjects of their taking.

Overall, the pass rate was expected to show an increase on last year’s 96 per cent pass rate. Rounding this up to the nearest whole per cent, showing workings wherever necessary, this meant that at least 97 per cent of students were expected to pass the A levels they took.

Which would have been impressive, and a sure sign that education has improved by leaps and bounds since 1988 – even if a report from the Curriculum Evaluation and Management Centre at Durham University said that pupils achieved between one and a half and three grades higher in 2004 that they would have in 1988

But why the change? On Wednesday the Telegraph had an answer – pass rates are on the up because spending on teaching has risen by 50 per cent in real terms since 1997, the year Tony Blair became our leader.

The paper said that Lord Adonis, the schools minister, attributes the rise in pass rates to better teaching and higher standards in the classroom.

It’s not the students who are getting smarter, it’s the system that’s getting better at finding ways to deal with them and preparing them to take the “gold standard” exam.

Problem is that, as the paper points out, if everyone is passing – and the 3 per cent who don’t may soon be classified as non-persons – how can employers and university admissions staff differentiate between applicants?

But things were not as they seemed – not quite. The pass rate was lower than had been expected – 96.2 per cent. This year’s students were just 0.2 of a per cent smarter/luckier/better educated than last year’s batch, which included Prince Harry.

Though short of the 100 per cent target, it’s still the 23rd successive year in which the pass rate has improved. And a record number of students have secured places at their preferred universities.

But not everyone was happy. And on Friday the Times unearthed an A level student who did not pass their exams.

While on Friday the Telegraph stuck with the traditional picture of a couple of blondish girls throwing their heads back as if in a hair care commercial and facing up to rosy futures with white teeth and excited eyes, the Times showed a chubby girl in a state of resignation.

Her name is Karin Sime, and she was the “ONE OFF: the girl who failed her A levels.”

Rightly, Karin was held up to the world at large as a freak. We read that Karin, 18, who had dreamt of becoming a vet, had scored two U grades in her biology and environmental science AS levels.

“Can you help Karin?” asked the paper, inviting its readers to email in their suggestions and tips for this noteworthy failure.

But before the winning suggestion could be announced, there were yet more pressing things on the education agenda.

The front-page of the Times was not all about young Karin, but led with the headline: “Universities to close the door on 60,000.”

So many students have done so very well in their big tests that a record number of them have already claimed places at their chosen universities.

Good news for them. And made all the more enjoyable when the winners learned that there are 100,000 wannabe graduates now chasing just 37,000 vacancies in the scramble to avoid getting a proper job that’s known as clearing.

But there is only enough room at the University of Teeside’s undergraduate programme in Sociology & Youth Studies, and 60,000 students will not get in anywhere.

Unless they chose to enter the University of Life, or McDonald’s, as it’s popularly known…’

Posted: 22nd, August 2005 | In: Broadsheets Comment | TrackBack | Permalink