Anorak News | Passing For A Scholar

Passing For A Scholar

by | 25th, August 2005

‘WHEREAS the tabloids fill the summer months with stories of rescued dogs, towering leylandii and Tony Blair’s tan, the broadsheets run on exam results.

‘I couldn’t have got to where I am today without a geography degree’

Brain power is all the rage in the Times, where readers learn of a study published in the British Journal of Psychology. The study, by Professor Paul Irwing and Professor Richard Lynn, reveals that men are on average about five IQ points brighter than women?

While half the population celebrates this news, and the other half tries to work out how many fingers and toes make five, the Telegraph talks of GCSEs.

Today is the day when almost 600,000 students will learn how well they’ve done in their tests. And the belief is that they will have done very well.

The paper says that the proportion of pupils achieving five A* to C grades has risen by over 20 per cent since 1997.

Hurrah! And a hearty cheer to the students of Magdalen College school, Oxford, who, as the Times reports, are expected to have performed exceptionally well.

All 83 scholars who took maths and English at GCSE have scored an A* or A grade. And no one scored a grade below A for German, Greek, Spanish, religious studies, chemistry and geography.

But rather than cheering the success of the students at the boys school, the school’s headmaster, Richard Cairns, says that “GCSEs and A levels are just too easy”. His charges are “not being stretched intellectually”.

It’s a view supported by Lord May of Oxford, President of the Royal Society, who tells the Times that studying GCSE science, for instance, is an exercise in memory not understanding.

But we should not do down the successful students who have done as well as they can. And Jacqui Smith, the schools minister, says that all students, even those who managed to do badly at the exams, can still go on to further education.

“They should know that many doors are still open to them, regardless of their results,” says she.

Quite so. Doors marked “airport departures”, “retakes” and “job centre” are ready to swing open at their eager push.

But we are missing the point. Smith wants students, however bright, male or female, to consider staying in the education system.

Which makes us wonder if the system has not been designed to encourage students via the placebo of good grades to stay in it and out of the job market?

But if this is the plan, it is flawed. As the Telegraph reports on its front page, while we were being told last week that 60,000 students would not gain a place at university, we today read that of the 114,000 hopefuls said to be embroiled in the scramble for a brighter future, only 6,000 have bothered to find a place.

As the paper says, this suggests that students are not as desperate to undergo more study as the universities like to imagine.

There is space to study aeronautical engineering at Glasgow, Liverpool and Leeds; room on Reading, Royal Holloway, Glasgow and Nottingham’s courses in classics; and spaces on law courses at Hull, Lancaster, Southampton and Surrey.

Might it be that higher education has, as Andrew Haldenby, director of think-tank Reform, says, reached saturation point? Says he: “They know that three years after leaving university, 40 per cent of graduates are in jobs that don’t require graduate skills.”

The rest are working as art historians and in the media…’

Posted: 25th, August 2005 | In: Uncategorized Comment | TrackBack | Permalink