#1: Yet more evidence that A-levels are getting easier, and the impact that this is having on the nation's economic competitiveness:
A “lost generation” of mathematicians has cost the economy £9 billion, while GCSE maths has become a “pick ‘n’ mix” test rather than the key staging post it once was, according to a report.
The decline in standards threatens the future of the economy, say the authors, and is having a devastating impact on the City, with some firms recruiting most of their maths graduates from overseas.
The report, by the Reform think-tank, accuses the Government of marginalising the interests of employers, teachers and students. It claims that ministers are focusing on exam results, rather than educational outcomes, and are trying to get pupils to pass any five GCSEs to meet targets, rather than concentrating on the core subjects of English and maths.[...]
Maths exams are much easier now than 30 years ago, Reform says, because of efforts to make them more relevant to the workplace. This means that children are not being taught key skills such as problem solving. As a result, it is “now possible to achieve a grade C in GCSE maths having almost no conceptual knowledge of mathematics” and by scoring less than 20 per cent in the top paper.
“A coherent discipline has changed to ‘pick ‘n’ mix’, with pupils being trained to answer specific shallow questions on a range of topics where marks can be most easily harvested.”
#2: Imperial College votes with its feet, and the count doesn't go A-levels' way:
#3: If some people have their way it will get a hell of a lot worse, before it gets any better:
One of Britain's leading universities is to introduce an entrance exam for all students applying to study there from 2010 because it believes that A levels no longer provide it with a viable way to select the best students.
Sir Richard Sykes, Rector of Imperial College, London, suggested that grade inflation at A level meant that so many students now got straight As that it had become almost “worthless” as a way of discriminating between the talented and the well drilled.
Last year one in four A-level marks was a grade A and 10 per cent of A-level students achieved at least three As.
“We can't rely on A levels any more. Everybody who applies has got three or four As. They [A levels] are not very useful. The International Baccalaureate is useful but again this is just a benchmark,” Sir Richard said.He added: “We are doing this not because we don't believe in A levels, but we can't use the A level any more as a discriminator factor.” The move will make Imperial, which specialises in science and engineering and ranks third in the UK after Oxford and Cambridge in The Times Good University Guide, the first university to introduce a university-wide entrance exam since Oxford scrapped its own version in 1995.
Hmm. I think the following quote from Yes, Prime Minister says it best:
Children should no longer be taught traditional subjects at school because they are "middle-class" creations, a Government adviser will claim today.
Professor John White, who contributed to a controversial shake-up of the secondary curriculum, believes lessons should instead cover a series of personal skills.
Pupils would no longer study history, geography and science but learn skills such as energy- saving and civic responsibility through projects and themes.
He will outline his theories at a conference today staged by London's Institute of Education - to which he is affiliated - to mark the 20th anniversary of the national curriculum.
Last night, critics attacked his ideas as "deeply corrosive" and condemned the Government for allowing him to advise on a new curriculum.
Professor White will claim ministers are already "moving in the right direction" towards realising his vision of replacing subjects with a series of personal aims for pupils.
But he says they must go further because traditional subjects were invented by the middle classes and are "mere stepping stones to wealth".
Professor White wants ministers to encourage schools to shift away from single-subject teaching to "theme or project-based learning".
Pupils would still cover some content but would be encouraged to meet a series of personal aims. The curriculum already states some of these but is "hampered" by the continued primacy of subjects.The aims include fostering a model pupil who "values personal relationships, is a responsible and caring citizen, is entrepreneurial, able to manage risk and committed to sustainable development".
Employment Secretary: The National Union of Teachers are scared stiff that conscription will expose the fact that school leavers, while of course being tremendously integrated socially and creatively aware...
Sir Humphrey: Can't actually read, write or do sums, yes.