Sunday, May 24, 2015

A tribute to British education

The kids know nothing these days

It's a disappointing collection of results, to say the least. A new survey, published today, has shone a great beaming light on British stupidity when it comes to geography, historical and cultural monuments and national landmarks.

The findings, put together by Mercure Hotels, establish that a third of Brits (35 per cent) couldn't pick London's Marble Arch out of a line-up, instead mistaking it for Paris' Arc de Triomph. 

It gets worse. A quarter (23 per cent) think the Lake District's Derwent Water is in New Zealand and more than a quarter (28 per cent) confuse St Paul's with the Vatican.

The survey questioned more than 2,000 people in this country and found more glaring gaps in knowledge of places of interest, whether real or fictional. 13 per cent of people thought that Mr Darcy's Pemberley from Pride and Prejudice is a real stately home and the same number thought Eastenders Albert Square is real.

Once shown pictures of the well known spots many of those asked thought Corrie's Weatherfield, Bond's Skyfall and Harry Potter's Platform 9 ¾ Kings Cross are real places in the UK.

30 per cent of Brits think the Brighton Pavilion is in fact the Taj Mahal. Almost half (44 per cent) of Brits think the Scottish Exhibition centre is the Sydney Opera House and 93 per cent of Brits fail to identify Bidean Nam Bian mountain range, one of the highest in the UK, as a real place.

Only 57 per cent of Brits think The Jurassic Coast is a real UK place of interest.

It seems ignorance is not quite bliss as 77 per cent of Brits asked said they would visit more places in the UK if they knew what else was there.

However, despite the knowledge gaps, 52 per cent of Brits feel that of all the countries they have visited, the UK has the most places of interest to explore, the next most interesting country being the USA (10 per cent).


U: Exams upheaval leads schools to ditch GCSEs and switch to international courses based on the old O-level

Schools have abandoned traditional GCSEs in favour of alternative international courses amid concerns over grading and exam upheaval.

GCSE entries in key subjects such as English literature, maths and the sciences have dropped, while take up of IGCSEs in these core areas has soared.

Headteachers’ leaders said schools believed the grading system of IGCSEs was more stable and were worried about volatility in the exams system.

Decisions about courses for this summer’s Year 11 cohort (15 and 16-year-olds) would have been taken by schools in early 2013 – months after serious concerns were raised about the grading of GCSE English in 2012.

And in June 2012, Michael Gove, the then Education Secretary, revealed proposals to scrap GCSEs and return to O-level-style exams.

IGCSEs are based on the O-level and have long been favoured by private schools. They usually have exams at the end of the two-year course and less coursework.

Figures published by exams regulator Ofqual show that entries for traditional GCSEs have fallen by three per cent from 5,085,000 last summer to 4,916,000 this year.

This compares with a 55 per cent increase in entries for IGCSEs, from 294,000 last summer to 457,000 this year.

A subject breakdown reveals that entries for Year 11 students to take GCSE English literature are down by 15 per cent and maths by 4 per cent. Entries for biology, physics and chemistry have each fallen by 8 per cent.

But IGCSE entries for English literature are up by 207 per cent, maths by 64 per cent, biology by 83 per cent, physics by 80 per cent and chemistry by 78 by per cent.

Richard Harman, chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, which represents private schools, said: ‘In an extremely volatile environment, headteachers in the state sector are trying to ensure the best levels of attainment for their pupils from among the various public exams available.’

A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘We are confident that teachers, parents and pupils will recognise the new rigorous GCSES – to be introduced from 2015 – are the best qualification.’


Oxford students vote in favour of continuing 900-year-old tradition of wearing gowns, suits and mortarboards to exams

Note:  This attire does NOT include traditional academic gowns

Oxford University students have voted overwhelmingly to keep a centuries-old tradition of wearing gowns, suits and mortarboards to exams.

Some students had argued that the formal dress - known as subfusc - is 'medieval', claiming it contributes to the perception of Oxford University as 'elitist' and 'unwelcoming'.

But in a referendum held by Oxford University Student Union (OUSU), 75 per cent voted to keep the signature sartorial look for exams.

The three-day referendum on the formal dress, which involves students wearing mortarboards, gowns and bow ties to exams, as well as matriculation and graduation ceremonies, ended this evening.

The student union announced that 76 per cent - 6,403 voters - said they wanted to keep subfusc compulsory. Just 2,040 students - or 24 per cent - voted against.

Subfusc is defined by the university as either a dark suit with dark socks, dark skirt with black tights or stockings or dark trousers with dark socks, that is worn with black shoes; a plain white collared shirt or blouse; white bow tie, black bow tie, black full-length tie, or black ribbon and a dark coat, if required.

Students made history as the referendum prompted the highest ever election turnout for a university student union in Britain.

Harrison Edmonds, 19, a first year history student at University College who led the campaign to keep subfusc, said he was 'delighted' with the result.  'I think it sends a positive message from the students in Oxford that subfusc isn't elitist but is egalitarian,' he said.  'No matter your background, your race, class, gender, when you go into exams wearing the gown you are equal.'

James Blythe, the union's vice-president for access and academic affairs, said he called the vote after some examiners asked to be allowed to stop wearing subfusc.  Mr Blythe, who stayed neutral throughout the campaign, said the student vote had been 'decisive'.

A university spokeswoman said: 'While this vote has indicated that students feel no need to change university policy on the wearing of subfusc, gathering comprehensive views of students on university policies and procedures is an important part of OUSU's work representing student views to the university through its governing committees.'

In 2012 gender restrictions for subfusc were dropped so students are free to wear a black ribbon or bow tie, or suits or skirt, as they wish.

Academic dress will be maintained for matriculation and graduation. At a previous referendum in 2006, students voted to continue the tradition.


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