Thursday, 15 August 2019
It Ain’t Level
Welcome to the annual orgy of congratulations, commiserations and parental hand-wringing anticipation as ridiculously tall children (what ARE they feeding them these days?) up and down the country receive their A-Level results. A quarter of them are expected to get an A* grade, a grade which was introduced to differentiate between those who had done well and those who had done really well. Of course, we used to have a way of doing that without all the starry stuff – it was just called an A grade and it literally gave its name to the epithet ‘A-grade student’ – and everybody understood what it meant.
But yesterday it was leaked that at least two exam boards will award an A-grade in A-Level Maths for a mere 55%. Not Media Studies, not Sociology, but mathematics. Fifty-five percent? That should barely scrape you a pass. To get an A you must surely need at least 80%; isn’t that what most people outside the academic world would expect? As a nation we contract out education to the state and in return for the consideration of our taxes we expect performance of that contract; not just an accounting fiddle that those Potemkin villages exist… on paper.
This is an indication of how far we have sunk and if teachers are not protesting about it, one can easily conclude that either they are colluding with the fraud, or they are too poorly educated themselves to recognise it. Fraud? Yes, of course; it is deliberately falsifying results, because grade boundaries are the result of deliberate decisions. The teaching profession is charged with preparing the nation's kids to lead useful lives. We keep being told how we live in an increasingly technological world, so why are we handicapping our own children and then using that as a pretext for the mass importation of better-educated graduates from overseas?
On Radio 4 this morning I heard a farmer who gets almost all his seasonal labour from Bulgaria bemoaning the fact that he can’t attract local youngsters to do the work; work which used to be eagerly looked forward to in rural areas. The harvest was a time to rake in some good extra money and rural schools even organised half-terms to coincide with the crops. But of course, these geniuses, with their multiple gold stars and attendance certificates and pupil of the week awards are far too ‘well-qualified’ to consider grubby fingers and broken nails.
We don't need no education...
Meanwhile the ability to communicate deteriorates even as the means of communication multiply. The appetite to reason rather than follow a creed declines as more and more new-age faiths compete for gullible acolytes. The well-rounded individual is displaced by the narrow-minded specialist and increasingly we are led not by leaders of conviction but by people whose only conviction is their right to lead. And year on year we lose the capacity to judge on merit, rather than mode; easy fashion trumps hard work. It’s not just the nails that are broken.