Friday, 21 August 2009

A level playing field (arf)

School is crap. Isn't it though? If you think about it, wasn't it just the years of your childhood magnified through an embarrassment lens, with an added filter of grey depression flipped over the top just to show the real bloody horror of having to associate in That Place every day? Wasn't it? Or am I just projecting on everybody's hypothetical schooling days in order to make me feel better? Who cares. Alls I knows is that despite the odd flash of bright cycle-safety arm tape in the darkness - namely English, Music and Marvel Action Hero Top Trumps - school for me was a wholly miserable experience. It shows in my grades too - despite being quite clever (not exceptionally clever, I assure you, my boundless self-deprecation would go nowhere near a description like that) I left with two and a half Scottish Equivalent A levels to my name. Unless you've read my CV, and then it's somewhere nearer four. Artistic license. A tawdry achievement, given that school leavers yesterday were celebrating yet another year of record-breakingly high results, and many of the students I spoke to last night while they were celebrating had taken three or four. The studious bastards.

It would be easy then, for me to talk about how A levels and examinations in general, are becoming easy. So easy, in fact, that along with the tests, my comments would be worthless. They might as well just usher you out of school on your last day with a wristband that states "I HAVE FINISHED" and this will qualify you adequately for a lifetime filled with public service sector jobs and a semi in Bradford. That's how much they mean. It'd be easy to do, because that would be the kneejerk reaction to a trend - look at the results, not the data, and form your conclusions. That's how we deal with statistics and science in the media, right Ben? Right, Stan? Clearly, those teachers are conning the system, in order to increase their school's funding. Surely those dreadful youngsters couldn't have created success for themselves - that's far too unlikely. Young people are the enemy.

I agree with this statement - I'm not fond of people, but I'm fond of teenagers even less - but I don't feel we can, or should, find blame in these exam results. Good results are meant to be a good thing. They mean at least our education system is working well even if nothing else in the country does (#IlovetheNHS), but some people, as always, are more than willing to look on the dull side of a good situation, and painstakingly research just how easy the tests are. Because if people are passing them, they must be easy. Right? Now that's what I call logic. Hack out a couple of pages, cause a minor amount of outrage/concern - bingo, you've just got yourself a brand new campaign. Or at least something to write about in your column. (Before you call me a hypocrit, I'd like to point out that she is paid, I am not.) Apparently, A levels are now "impossible to fail" and are not a true representation of a student's intelligence. I only took mine 4 years ago, and I can tell you, this is probably the worst thing to ever hear. Not only did I fail some tests, I failed some tests that are impossible to fail. Cheers pundits. Cheers. I do wholeheartedly agree that formal exams alone should not be the way to judge a person's intelligence - under pressure a person can stall, yes, but if you've spent long enough swallowing textbooks and learning how to pass, you'll do just that. It's like a driving test. You don't learn how to drive necessarily, you learn how to pass your test. And then as soon as you pass you forget the tricky bits and the habits set in. In our classes at high school, aside from the admittedly rare, passionate teachers, our mentors knew that to pass exams, we had to know how to take exams. I learned nothing about the nitrogen cycle in Biology when I come to think about it, but I did know what to write about for my exam. I even wrote the equation for nitrogen dispersion in something or other energy whatsit recycling blah. I didn't know what it meant then, I still don't know what it means now. Before we decide that our national assessments are flawed, why don't we go back to where it all starts - perhaps we should figure out whether more people are passing because they know what's expected of them, rather than actually having the knowledge? I know that the exams I failed were simply because I hadn't recited my "must knows" several times a day into the mirror, and when I put post-it notes about sin cos and tan up in the bathroom to read while I was brushing my teeth, my mum took them down and said "this isn't the way you learn". It's true. It's not. That's the way you learn valueless facts in order to learn something else, but because I didn't go on to study maths (oh Christ, that would have been the stuff of sitcom legend) I never used the memorised stats. They meant nothing. It's like when you realise you still remember the Lord's Prayer, even though the last time you recited it was aged eight at a primary school harvest festival. It's still there, but it's useless. Taking up space because you knew that you had to know it to get on in life, but you didn't really understand what it meant. I think what I'm trying to say is that we might be getting young people to be experts in passing exams, but is that really good enough in the life skills department? Because once I left school I realised you could be the cleverest person in the class, and you'd still be living in your hometown working in the same job with the same people because of a fear of the unknown. Learning from a book is all well and good, and you'd not get very far without learning what you do learn in school, but what I'm trying very inarticulately to express is that passing an exam does not a human being make. It isn't what's important. The grade you get might determine what uni you go to, but your enthusiasm and ability counts for much more than your relevant percentage if you apply to the right places. Or perhaps I'm just doomily positive. I am poorly today, after all.

And don't get the idea that I just said "life experiences enable you to grow as a person". I'd never say that. That's what cunts say.


Keeno said...

I thought it was a well known, but never admitted fact (like it's Grandma letting out the fartsd, not the dog) that exams were geting easier.
This is comign from Top Brass. The Head Honcho's.
nope, not Mr Bronson et al. I'm talking top top brass.
That's right.
The Governement.
it's to make them look better

thank fruck they're not doing the same with the driving test, or else these days all you'd need to do to pass is unlock and open the door, start the engine and whack the bass up on your i-pod equipped stereo.
and then do a wheel spin

or something

down with young things!

but you're right, my A-levels have as much relevance to me these days, as my ability to crochet when I was 7.

chestymorgan said...

I am one of the cleverest people I know:D & my qualifications are shocking;due largely to my entire secondary school experience being peer torture from start to finish.

Jnr's dad was outsourced to a £15k a year boarding school by his Child psychologist mother(just typing that sickens me)and yet our relationship has been psychological warfare for years because...cue Jaws theme...
In many respects,I know a hell of a lot more than he does.

Education IMO is a bollocks but necessary;employer impressing evil.

Some European countries have a years compulsory national service or social care for late teens&I think that would be profoundly 'educational'.I learned more wiping arses&pushing wheelchairs than I ever did at school.

As ever,magnificent.I so hope his CBness introduced you to some useful contacts.Thanks again for inspiring me to have a go.Peace out xxx

the_man_in_the_middle said...

Je vais peut etre faire la planche a voile s'il vais chaud mais je ne sais pas si la temp sera beau. (I might go windsurfing if it is hot but I don't know if the weather will be nice)

3 Years of French and that's all I got... not 'help I am having a heart attack' or anything remotely useful. *shakes head*

As for all + Top up Fees = Idiot Tax [1]
a) how much debt you'll be in after three years of continuous consumption of alcohol and pizza
b) your probability of getting a high paid job leaving with a 2:2 in social studies during a recession...

or don't bother you got 7/8 anyway...

Katie said...

Glad you all liked it :)

man_in_the_middle - YOU'RE BACK! I thought you'd fucked off out of boredom!

1. 4.
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