Left Out Liberal

A left-wing/liberal look at the UK's General Election of 2005.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


When it comes to any discussion of our exams system I can easily become infuriated by the loose language many politicians and commentators use that can cause great offence because they have refused to engage their brains.

The first and most important thing to bear in mind is that it is not usually a good idea to criticise the current system too harshly as there are currently kids and young adults working through their courses, working hard, revising, studying and sometimes making their social lives suffer by having to take additional jobs, who are going to be seriously impacted if you tell them that they are getting it "easier than ever."

It's never a good idea to devalue hard work. That is exactly what people who either a) don't know better, or b) don't understand the issues at all do when they question the educational system. As a very recent product of this system, I know from first hand experience how gutting it is to get your exam results, think you've done really well, and then discover when you get back home that in fact things are "easier" than ever, and how it's "impossible to fail". It's not a great feeling to think that your two years of hard work are being degraded by people who would struggle to answer a GCSE question to the A* standard that they think they hold, never mind an A-Level question.

Having said that, there is nothing wrong with wanting to find an even better way of assessment. Something has to be done about the exam culture we are living in, as well as the fact that a significant number of children do not achieve any GCSEs at all. We must make GCSEs, in particular, more relevant to the children studying them, so that the staying-on rate of children going on to study A-Levels is much higher. This, naturally, would include the equalisation of status of vocational courses. It is, surely, much better that children are in an education system for longer. We should be aiming for almost 100% staying on rate up to 18.

And to me, the best way of achieving all of this was with the four-tier diplomas as proposed by Mike Tomlinson. We have to end the snobbery of looking down on vocational courses, and this was an excellent way of solving the problem.

So naturally, I'm not at all happy that the government has missed this chance to level the playing field. Schools will continue to avoid offering vocational courses for fear of being labelled as a school that is "dumbing down" by prospective parents. Consequently, many children will be denied the opporunity to study areas that they would find more interesting and relevant to their lives. It will then be hardly surprising if they leave school earlier and suffer all the problems that that entails.

It's always been my belief, and it should be of everyone, that a society should be judged on the quality of its education to its children. It is the best, if not the only way, to ensure that everyone has a chance in life. We have suffered the problems of the class system for too long in this country. It is slowly on its way out, but we must keep pressing by pushing for thorough reforms such as this one.

There is nothing fundmentally wrong with either the GCSE or the A-Level. Standards are as high as ever, and the rise in passes at A-Level is down to a combination of the Education 2000 modular system, as well as the fact that A-Level students are more likely to pass anyway, since they have usually done pretty well at GCSE and are a more intelligent bunch. But they should all be integrated into a system that produces the same qualification for all by the end, obviously to varying grades depending on how high your percentage score is. And that qualification should incorporate a wider range of subjects, assessed consistently throughout the years with coursework and assignments, not just final exams, with relevant and practical applications to Real Life so kids understand why they're doing it.

It's the only way to solve the current problems. But go easy on the kids who are currently slaving their arses off in pursuit of the goals society has set them.


Post a Comment

<< Home