Are examination results getting better?

It is reported that examination results are getting better every year. Teachers and parents know the reality. Below are some of the reasons why more students are doing well in public examinations.

reduction in the content of the specifications (syllabus);
pressure on teachers to teach students mainly to pass examinations;
counting some vocational qualifications, including some IT courses as four GCSE grades (a complete an utter joke!);
modular examinations, which allow students to sit modules in a particular subject several times;
middle-class and low-income but aspirational parents forking out for private tuition.

The above are just some of the contributory factors for examination results appearing to get better.

You have to be careful of what you read into these figures. The improvement in examination results is not widespread. There are still certain social class and racial groups for which there has been little or no improvement in examination results in the last few years.

While one should commend the effort of the teachers, young people and parents in working hard and making a lot of sacrifices to achieve good examination results, one should not be fooled and take improvement in examination result as evidence that young people in this country are getting brighter. International comparison of educational standards does not say much for the British education system. A recent article in the Mail Online commented on how British education system now lags behind that of Estonia!

A lot has been said in the media about the detrimental effect on modular examinations on improved exam results or the so-called grade inflation. The fear and panic that modular examinations cause for parents, teachers and more importantly our young people cannot be over-emphasised. As someone who runs revision courses, which tend to benefit from all the hullabaloo of modular examinations, I think modular examinations ought to be abandoned. I cannot see the long-term benefit of modular exams to any of the parties involved: the students, parents, teachers and the wider society in general. In my view, the introduction of the A* grade at A-level is unlikely to solve any problems, including the reason for which it was introduced in the first place, which was to allow top universities to select the very best. One of the ways in which the A* can be made to serve its main purpose is to limit the percentage of candidates who can achieve the grade to five to eight percent, say. Simply saying that students need to score 90% in a particular subject will not solve the problem. Teachers and educational institutions will find a way of teaching the students to achieve the target of 90%, or any other target set.

Allowing vocational qualifications to count as so many GCSE or A-Level grades is at best trying to please everyone and giving them false information and at worst a fraud. GCSE and A-levels on one hand are quite different from vocational qualifications and each type of qualification is designed to prepare and assess students for a particular set of skills.

As long as vocational qualifications are given the credit they deserve and those people with BTechs and HNDs (does it actually still exist?) are not looked down upon, there should not be any guilt feeling by the political elite and the middle-class. It would also mean we’d have better trained tradespeople, which will surely be good for everyone.