Saturday, August 27, 2005


Except that it is an officially-fostered illusion. Comments from Britain:

An abundance of top grades in this year's A-level and GCSE results shows that the exams are too easy and must be reformed, the deputy head of an independent school said yesterday. As almost 600,000 students receive their results today, Richard Cairns, of Magdalen College school in Oxford, said that all 83 pupils who sat English and maths GCSE had achieved an A* or A grade and that no grades fell below A for those who took German, Greek, Spanish, religious studies, chemistry and geography.

Mr Cairns, who becomes the headmaster of Brighton College next term, also accused the Government of failing the top 5 per cent of students and called for a return of state-funded scholarships for poorer, gifted pupils to attend private schools. The exceptional results come a week after 51 of the 73 boys taking A levels at the school achieved at least three As. Mr Cairns said: "GCSEs and A levels are just too easy." The results demonstrated that the exams no longer stretch the most able students. "Pupils are thinking they need to do more and more in order to differentiate themselves from others so they are piling on more subjects rather than trying to stretch themselves by doing something different and challenging. It's like building 15 roads rather than building a bridge. They are not being stretched intellectually."

The proportion of pupils getting five good GCSE passes has risen by 8.6 percentage points since Labour came to power in 1997, from 45.1 to 53.7 last year. That figure is also expected to rise for GCSEs results released today. Mr Cairns said that the Government was neglecting the top 5 per cent and suggested that independent schools were better able than those in the state sector to provide further academic challenges to able students.

Magdalen's performance at GCSE and A level was "obviously very pleasing" for the boys, he said. "But it also demonstrates why we can no longer depend on GCSE or A-level examiners to stretch and challenge our most able students." It was now up to individual schools to provide that extra intellectual stimulation that bright teenagers need. "Some very clever boys and girls from academically deprived backgrounds are doubtless missing out, their talent squandered," he said. "There is, in my view, a stronger case than ever for the State to support scholars at leading independent schools, selected on the basis of academic ability and genuine financial need."

Mr Cairns's call came as Lord May of Oxford, President of the Royal Society, said that studying science at GCSE was more an exercise in memory than understanding. "The sciences are truly dynamic and exciting subjects," he said. "However, the experience of studying science for many GCSE students is one of rote-learning for exams and memorising a few standardised experiments. Consequently we see that many students drop science like a hot potato as soon as they have the opportunity."



GCSE results showed the highest increase in top grades in 13 years yesterday as head teachers’ leaders admitted that schools were increasingly “playing the system” to boost their standing in examination league tables. The proportion of exams awarded at least a C grade rose by two percentage points to 61.2 per cent this year, the biggest increase since 1992. The number of top A* and A grades also rose by 1 percentage point to 18.4 per cent of entries. Overall, students passed 97.8 per cent of the 5.73 million papers this year, an increase of a fifth of a percentage point on last year....

The results showed that less able pupils were being entered for vocational subjects instead of GCSEs in languages and sciences. Mr Hart said that many schools were focusing on vocational qualifications to boost standings in the league tables. He called on ministers to review the practice that permitted a vocational GNVQ to be considered equivalent to four GCSEs in the tables. New applied GCSEs in subjects such as construction and “learning for life and work” were also worth two GCSE grades. “The demands of league tables are driving the system and that is not in the interests of students or of UK plc,” he said. “Students are understandably playing the system and studying their stronger subjects.”

Professor Alan Smithers, of the University of Buckingham, said that many more less able students had been “switched out” of “harder” academic GCSEs into less challenging vocational courses. “The league tables need to be reviewed in the light of the evidence of their impact on schools’ behaviour,” he said. ...

Sir Digby Jones, Director-General of the CBI, said that the education system still left too many teenagers with inadequate levels of literacy and numeracy. Nearly half of students failed to get a grade C or better in maths and almost 40 per cent in English. “Every student deserves praise for their achievements and I wish every one of them a prosperous future, but there is clearly a systemic failure in the education system as yet again almost half of GCSE entrants have failed to reach the basic levels of competency in the three Rs,” Sir Digby said. "Being taught how to read, write and add up was regarded as fundamental right for all in the 20th century, so why in the 21st century is the education system of the world’s fourth richest economy seemingly unable to deliver?”

More here


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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