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3 August 2003

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What do record A Level results mean for business?



Following record A-level examination pass rates, local company directors have again called on the Government to undertake a fundamental review of the whole examination system.

David Jennings, education liaison officer with the Eastern Branch of the Institute of Directors, said:

"We congratulate all successful A-level students and in no way wish to denigrate the sacrifices and hard work that many pupils have made. However, we continue to believe that yet another ‘record-breaking year’ for A-level pass rates is symptomatic of endemic and rampant grade inflation. We must ask ourselves what do we want from A-levels since it is clear that they are becoming increasingly meaningless.

“A-levels used to be testing and highly 'discriminatory' – gold standards selecting undergraduates for a highly selective university system. They are now designed for an age of mass entrance into universities. They have been ‘dumbed down’.”

Last month the Institute of Directors published a policy paper, Education and training – A business blueprint for reform in which it raised the whole question of grade inflation and listed some possible reasons including:

  • Easier syllabuses (for example, less grammar in French and German and the removal of calculus from A-level physics);

  • The rise in coursework which presents opportunities for cheating and plagiarism;

  • The switch from hard subjects such as mathematics to soft options;

  • Weaker pupils not being entered for exams by schools wishing to preserve league table positions; and

  • Evidence of lower pass marks and softer more positive marking.

Mr Jennings added: “The debate over whether standards have fallen and whether grades have been inflated is somewhat irrelevant.

“What is needed is a thorough review of our secondary schooling. We need to develop a respected and challenging vocational pathway, as, for example, in Germany. Then we could toughen up the academic pathway, making it more demanding for academically inclined children.”

August 2002

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