I sometimes wonder where on earth do the Government get their ideas about education in the UK? At a recent NUT meeting (yes I have a spy in there), teachers discussed striking over proposals put forward by ministers to change the A-level system (Post-16.) Wait what is this? Teachers are going to strike over concerns that proposals will damage student’s lives? This is odd, we thought teachers only strike for a pay rise, less hours, more holidays and more time at the beach. Funny how the media never really offers this side of the story but continues to spout the government’s rhetoric that teacher’s striking only damages their reputation, when in fact teacher’s are sacrificing their pay for the benefit of the future of students.
The proposal that I would like to focus on-for there are many complex subject specific ones- is the idea that A levels should be linear. Not content with removing January exams, the government wishes to remove AS exams as well, thus ensuring students a completely horrendous second year at college. Ministers such as dear old Mr Gove, feel that currently exams are easy as they allow students to revise for them, complete them at the end of the year and then forget about them.
The irony of this is that even when there were mid-year exams, students still found them difficult. This is because A-levels are not easy, they were not and are not in need of such drastic reform. The vast majority of students would agree with this statement as the work needed to achieve top grades at A-level is immense. Perhaps there are some subjects where reform is needed but to spread such an oppressive blanket over all is unacceptable. A change to a linear system would heap more pressure on students who have just made the jump from GCSE to A levels and so would result in lower grades, lower numbers of people entering into top universities and less people becoming qualified for higher wage jobs. It seems as if the government can’t create more jobs so they simply want to reduce the demand for them.
The point about students forgetting their subject material after exams is also flawed. Firstly, many subjects such as Government & Politics require students to use knowledge learnt at AS in A2 exams. Secondly, subjects such as Maths and English in which a student’s skills are developed rather than actual knowledge, do not require memorising but refining and building upon skills. Thirdly, the intense revision students do to prepare for exams means they are unlikely to forget what they learnt in a hurry. Fourthly, merely having to remember subject knowledge for two years is no guarantee that students will go on to remember it for a longer period of time as they can simply forget what they learnt after two years, so the only thing changing to a linear format would do is delay the inevitable. Fifthly, when did memorising become the way to determine intelligence? All this will do is force teachers to teach completely to the exam rather than give students an enriching experience.
The fact there is five arguments against this proposal is surely proof that it is a wrong move. The arguments for changing A levels to a linear exam are weak and invalid. You may as well abolish all exams in secondary school and expect students to remember everything from year 7 to year 11. This is what happens when the views of students are not even considered as the people in charge act as if they know what is best for us but in reality, they simply do not. Perhaps the Department Of Education should consider hiring some actual students to help them make their decisions.
Until next time,
A Worried Student