Higher exam grades and falling standards – what a contradiction!

Despite the ever-improving examination results at GCSE and A-level, there are still so many young people who fail to gain mastery and to achieve the examination grades they are capable of in the subjects that the employers value most.

Standards are falling in the UK, when compared with international standards, as measured by PISA – Programme for International Student Assessment. The reason why the standard of education in England and Wales is lagging behind is not because the young people in the top-performing countries are brighter than British young people. The number of Nobel Prize winners for science and other academic disciplines that originate from the UK is evidence to the fact that the Brits are by no means less clever than others! The reality is that UK used to be much higher up in the PISA rankings and it is now slipping behind whilst other countries such as Germany and Poland are moving up in the rankings.

Year in year out, over the last two to three decades, I have seen the curriculum being watered down.  This is a very complex issue and I will not attempt to discuss it in this article. What I will be tackling for now is the simpler fact, which is:  too many young people are not performing to their full potential. They do not acquire a high level of competence and do not achieve the exam grades they are capable of. The other related issue is that, even among the young people who are achieving the top grades, they have not being stretched enough and A and A* grades are dished out too cheaply – which is a slightly different issue.

One must not rubbish the work that our high-performing young people have done to achieve those high grades, the tremendous effort of their teachers and their parents in investing time and resources to supporting them to do well. All we can ask of our young people is to do well in the exam that is set for them, under the rules we set. It is up to society to set higher standards. One fact, for which I agree with the international yardstick for measurement of educational standards – PISA – is that: standards in most of the UK are falling further behind those of the top-performing countries. This is also evident by the fact that the top universities now favour the IB – the International Baccalaureate – over the A-level.

We have a real issue on our hands and we must be asking ourselves some serious questions – why is the standard of education in the UK falling? We must face the truth and not deceive ourselves as we look for solutions.

There are so many reasons for the continuous fall in standards but one main one is the culture of low expectation and bad behaviour that is allowed to dominate in most schools. Teachers are too tolerant of bad behaviour in the classroom and in school as a whole.

Quoting the Chief Inspector of OFSTED (the education watchdog) – Sir Michael Wilshaw – a few days ago in which he said: “over-familiarity towards pupils leads to misbehaviour and inattention.” He also said that: 700,000 pupils attend schools where the behaviour of schoolchildren is judged to be in need of improvement. I believe this figure from the Chief of OFSTED is extremely conservative.

Over the next five weeks or so, I will be looking at some of the reasons why young people underperform in school. In my next blog, the first issue I will be looking into is:

“The culture of low expectation and toleration of bad behaviour by teachers”

Please let us hear your views by making a comment below. We really do value your opinions and look forward to hearing your comments.

Our next blog is on Monday and the title is: “The culture of low expectation and toleration of bad behaviour by teachers”

If you have any questions relating to the topics raised in this post or education in general please let us know. If you would like to speak to a member of our advisory team about any education-related matter, please feel free to contact us through the following mediums: Tel 020 7112 4832; Email [email protected]; Web www.excelinkeysubjects.com 

Some useful links

Link to the PISA table: PISA – Programme for International Student Assessment

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programme_for_International_Student_Assessmentb.     Other

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