UK EXAMS GET EASIER AND EASIER
Note: This piece was written over ten years ago, but it is still
largely applicable today, as western governments continue to hoodwink the
people into thinking that their educational services are succeeding. By
and large, however, they are not. Furthermore, the situation for boys
across the western world is worsening by the year thanks to educational
policies that have been purposely designed to discriminate against boys;
e.g. see Well Done the Girls?)
Despite the continuing denials from certain
teaching unions, Examining Boards and government, that exams have not been
getting any easier, take it from someone who has been in the education business
for 20 years, THEY HAVE, and they have been getting easier for at least the past
In primary schools, performance standards
kept plummeting until the Tories introduced the school 'league tables' in the
1990's. This had
the effect of alerting teachers to the necessity of achieving higher academic standards
or face the music from any adverse publicity generated by doing poorly in the league
tables compared to other schools. The result was that standards were stopped
from dropping further, but there was no really significant improvement.
Standards did rise, however, with the
introduction of the SATS and with the enforcement of the literacy and numeracy
hours. Nevertheless, they haven't risen much.
With regard to the GCSE exams for 16 year
olds and the A'levels for 18 year olds, EVERY experienced teacher whom I have
spoken to admits that these exams have become easier in the last 10 years, and
this explains the rising number of passes and the higher grades now being
obtained both at GCSE and at A'level. These same teachers, however, also state
that they would never openly admit to these facts in public.
The lower exam standards certainly make it
much easier for the teaching profession to claim that it is achieving its aims -
though this is somewhat offset by the extra difficulties involved in trying to
teach ever-more disruptive, increasingly uninterested pupils - with matters made
even worse by the paucity of sanctions that are available with which to deal
with them, and by the inability and/or unwillingness of so many parents to bring
up their children properly.
The schools and teaching unions always
deny publicly that exams are easier because they do not want to be seen to be
producing an inferior 'product'. They would prefer us to believe that teachers
are actually achieving more rather than admit to the fact that the exams are
Examining Boards also deny that they have
made their exams easier, but they also have an incentive for covering up the
truth. They have to compete with each other! They sell their syllabuses and
marking services to the schools just as any other business sells its wares. And
schools are bound to choose those Examining Boards which give their pupils the
best results. Who wouldn't? The net effect, however, is to drive down the
standards as each Examining Board wants to maximise the number of pupils who
take their exams. By lowering the standards and making life easier for the
pupils and their teachers, the more the schools choose their services.
Governments of all colours, of course,
would never want to be seen to have presided over falling standards. They would
all prefer to boast about the increasing numbers of students achieving more
during their period of office. Allowing exams to become easier is one very cheap
way of accomplishing this. But, of course, this is nothing more than a
In short, everyone in the education
business has a vested interest in lying about the declining standards. And they
would much prefer to be seen as having produced a better product by using as
evidence the fact that more pupils are passing the exams, and with higher
But it really is a sham, and the country
does not benefit at all from this. The exams are simply getting easier.
If the younger generations are to support
themselves and the ageing population in an adequate manner, then they need to be
trained and educated to the best standards possible. This is important for all
of us. And no-one benefits by ignoring the decline in our educational standards
- except those in the education business.
Here's Judith O'Reilly in The
Sunday Times (6/8/00) ...
Evidence that examination
grades are being devalued and made easier to achieve has been uncovered in one
of Britain's biggest studies into standards. The research, which showed that
candidates of similar ability are getting A-level results as much as a grade
better than they would have done three years ago, casts doubt on the
government's claim to be improving standards.
The study, based on independent
tests of pupils' ability, questionnaires from 900 schools and a vast database of
exam results, has been conducted by Carol Fitz-Gibbon, of Durham University, who
advises the government's curriculum watchdog, the Qualifications and Curriculum
Fitz-Gibbon, Professor of
Education at Durham, claims standards in A-levels and GCSEs have been
"adjusted downwards" and raises concerns that standards in national
curriculum tests for 11-year-olds may have been "lowered".
"It seems clear in the external
examinations at age 16 and 18 that there has been a tendency to easier grades
being available, particularly in mathematics and the sciences," she said.
In her study, Fitz-Gibbon compared the A-level performance of two sets of pupils
who sat independent tests in 1996 and 1999 to assess their intellectual ability.
She found that pupils who scored 60% in the test in 1996 got, on average,
between a C and a D in A-level applied mechanics, but in 1999 those with the same
score got on average between a B and a C.
(So, this change is evident over a recent
period of just three years. If she had looked at the change over the past 15
years my belief is that the public would be genuinely very shocked.)
French and geography, students of the same general ability did better by about a
grade in 1998 compared with 10 years earlier. In none of the 83 A-level subjects
the researchers investigated was there any evidence that the grades became more
difficult to attain.
Fitz-Gibbon, whose research will be published next month in
a book, rejects suggestions that the improvement in A-level performance can be
attributed entirely to extra effort by candidates. Confidential questionnaires
sent out to "hundreds of thousands" of pupils suggested they were not
working harder. In fact, A-level students were being set less homework.
conclusions, she says, are supported by university lecturers who claim students
do not know as much as predecessors did about subjects such a maths and
... The study is also critical of standards in 11-year-old tests. In
1995, in English, 48% of children reached the pass mark but by last year, 70%
had reached the required level. In 1995, in maths, only 44% reached the required
level compared with 69% last year. This year, one report has already predicted
the results will go up to 77% in English and 76% in maths.
attributed some of the increase to "test technique" as well as
improving academic performance by preparing children for the tests. However,
there was also evidence that markers might be being encouraged to be generous.
And here's Amelia Hill in The
Children taught at home
significantly outperform their contemporaries who go to school, the first
comparative study has found. It discovered that home-educated children of
working-class parents achieved considerably higher marks in tests than the
children of professional, middle-class parents and that gender differences in
exam results disappear among home-taught children.
The study, to be published by
the University of Durham in the autumn, will support a call for the Government
to introduce legislation to help the growing army of parents who are choosing to
remove their children from schools.
The numbers of home-educated children in
Britain has grown from practically none 20 years ago to about 150,000 today -
around 1 per cent of the school age population. By the end of the decade, the
figure is expected to have tripled.
... 'Home-educated children do better in
conventional terms and in every other way too,' said Paula Rothermel, a lecturer
in learning in early childhood at the University of Durham, who spent three
years conducting the survey.
She said: 'This study is the first evidence we have
proving that home education is a huge benefit to large numbers of children.
Society just assumes that school is best but because there have never been any
comparative studies before this one, the assumption is baseless.'
questioned 100 home-educating families chosen randomly across the UK, conducting
face-to-face interviews and detailed appraisals of their children's academic
progress, in line with recognised Government tests. She found that 65 per cent
of home-educated children scored more than 75 per cent in a general mathematics
and literacy test, compared to a national figure of only 51 per cent.
average national score for school-educated pupils in the same test was 45 per
cent, while that of the home-educated children was 81 per cent.
... Rothermel found that the
children of working-class, poorly-educated parents significantly outperformed
their middle-class contemporaries.
(This is truly astonishing and a serious
indictment of our schools.)
While the five- to six-year old children of
professional parents scored only 55.2 per cent in the test, children far lower
down the social scale scored 71 per cent.
And here's John Clare in The
Daily Telegraph (15/6/00)
Half the adults in
Britain have such poor levels of literacy and numeracy that they cannot cope
with the demands of everyday life and work in a complex, advanced society,
according to a study published yesterday.
Only four of the 29 countries
belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that
took part in the survey had a lower average literacy score than Britain. They
were Ireland, Hungary, Poland and Portugal.
The most literate countries were
Denmark, Finland, Germany, Holland, Norway and Sweden.
In basic numeracy, only
Ireland, Poland and Portugal scored lower than Britain.
The survey put Sweden
top and Chile at the bottom in three literacy categories - prose, document and
quantitative. Britain was ranked in the bottom half in each category.
tests administered to representative samples of adults aged 16 to 65 in each
country, it divided literacy and numeracy skills into five levels. Those scoring
below level three could not say which of four film reviews was the least
favourable; work out from a bicycle owner's manual how to ensure the seat was in
the proper position; or convert a recipe for four servings into one for six.
They were considered incapable of coping with the demands of everyday life and
work. 51% of Britons were at this level.
Britain had the largest
number of adults who watched television more than two hours a day - 60 per cent
- of the 20 countries included in that part of the survey. The report said:
"Literacy scores are negatively related to the amount of television people