If you’re brain hasn’t already fried with all the excessive alcohol intake at uni, you should be able to recall back to a time of the dreaded A-levels where there were two very distinct breeds of people; those that panicked, sweated and threw themselves into fits of frustrated revision, and those who inevitably had to borrow a black pen of the former breed of student. Whether you received As or Cs or even the dreaded U on results day, whats become transparent- according to Education officials- is that A-levels are getting easier. Whether you were that student armed with piles of books, or the one armed with…well not very much at all, you’re now being told that you’re A-levels were easier than those who went before you. The cheek! The absolute audacity. The armfuls of students with As could not possibly be proof of a successful education system, of students who study hard and make the grade; but must instead be evidence of a society where re-sits and re-marks are common place; encouraged even. So you didn’t pass first time? Don’t panic! Just try again as many times as you like, is the message being drilled into sixth formers, according to Education Secretary Michael Gove.
There’s no denying, A-level passes are at a record high. But is it pure coincidence that these same students armed with gaggles of A grades are also the students being ‘taught’ to just ‘pass the exam’. Do we no longer encourage a think outside the box attitude? Of course not. That would deviate from the curriculum and we don’t have time for that! Remember those never ending, time evading French speaking exams. Je voudrais commander un verre d’eau et du pain s’il vous plaît. It’s French, we learnt it, we passed. Have we used it since? I’d bet many invaluable possessions on your answer being no. But it doesn’t matter. According to that shiny A grade sat neatly on your UCAS application, you speak French, and you speak it well.
A recent poll of University lecturers showed nearly three quarters had to adapt their first year classes to include basic instruction on how to write an essay. But for once we can’t blame the parents; heck we can’t even blame the students. They have been unwittingly brainwashed to just, “don’t ask why, just pass the bloody exam paper”as one former Science teacher- adorned in a white lab coat- had instructed me. But this isn’t constructive, it doesn’t help in the long run. The system is blatantly more interested in percentages and pass rates than producing a generation of well rounded students prepared for university, with the knowledge to succeed; and that system is failing our generation.
University is challenging- so then too should the exams that get you there. Arguably A-levels should prepare you for university, a nice jumping board from one academic institution to another. Of course there will be those who argue that the system is fine, it’s just wonderful and doesn’t need changing at all- but in a society that has more access to information than ever before, why are we so afraid to teach it? There is a fear of thinking outside the box, because thinking outside the box doesn’t get you the A. But perhaps it should. Perhaps thinking outside the box should be the new mark scheme, and if Gove has his way, it could be as early as 2016!