Friday, August 17, 2007

The waiting's over!

Today is the day that many 18 year olds across the country have been looking forward to with nervous anticipation. In June they took their final examinations and today sees the culmination of 13 years of schooling. The day that the dreaded A Level results are announced!

For the benefit of those who may be unfamiliar with the British education system, students are required to stay in full time education until they are 16. At that point they sit their General Certificate of Secondary Education - GCSE for short. The decision is then made whether to throw themselves on the mercy of the employment market, or continue into further education in a Sixth Form College. Two years later their academic prowess is assessed by means of the Advanced Level examination - the A Level.

Half way through sixth form, students wishing to attend a university visit the establishments they feel most suited to their needs. Their chosen university lists the A level grades required to gain entry, and if these are achieved, a place is offered.

But what do the A Level results tell us? Each year an increasing number of students gain Grade A passes. The number has increased year on year for 25 years.

Today's announcement showed that 1 in 4 students gained at least one A Grade. Furthermore, 96.9% officially passed their exams with grades E -to A. As usual girls out performed boys in every subject except Mathematics and Modern Languages.

Every year the cry goes up that the exams are getting easier. Teachers however, claim that today's young people work harder. Critics then point out the increasing emphasis given to course work, and the opportunity for plagiarism in the internet age.

The high percentage of top level passes has created a new problem. How can prospective employers and universities pick the best qualified applicants, when 25% of students have the highest achievable grade? Should the exams be made more difficult? Should only the top 10% be awarded Grade A , the second 10% B grade and so on?

The other startling statistic is that 50% of students now expect to go on to a degree course at university. This is producing a skills shortage which will only be solved by allowing increasing numbers of immigrants from Eastern Europe and beyond. And when all these students graduate, there simply won't be enough jobs requiring a degree to go around.

Lots of questions - very few answers. And by the way, in case you are wondering, I failed every one of my exams!


  1. Well, your last sentence makes me feel a little better. I sat 8 'O' Levels in 1954 and passed!

  2. In Holland and here it is the same
    In Holland and New Zealand are many overqualified people. The ones here all leave for Autralia.
    The problem of shortage of trade people is big as well. The good thing is that they earn therefore
    good money. There is a big shortage
    here of electricians. They can easily enter New Zealand.
    I find it sad though that academics
    are so important. I know many
    skilled people who don't get a change because of school problems.
    I also had a few problems with
    professional with degrees who are
    absolutely unsuitable for the job.
    Time for a change

  3. Hey there Cheffie your education system is very different from ours here in the states. I personally see no need to make the exams tougher. I think that it is wonderful that these kids are achieving great grades.

  4. Keith that is something I never knew about your education system, It is interesting and I think in some degrees far greater than I see in other areas. Thanks for such a wonderful article.

  5. Hi Keith! Just giving you a shout out, cuz I'm missing you! There's a Wordly Wonders thread created by jadey in the Cafe "area" if you're interested in coming to visit us. I'm not happy with our new home, but at least it's somewhere that we can all still chit chat and check in with each other. Hope to see ya there soon and hear how you've been doing. Feel free to email me anytime or just visit my blogsite and say hiyas.
    Hope all is well with you and yours!

  6. Hi my 55 is up please check it out would appreciate it

  7. Tsk, tsk..., what are we going to do with you? Send you back to school? Actually the education system is more similar to Quebec's than it is to the rest of Canada. Each province is responsible for their own system but Canada has a general guideline. Quebec doesn't follow it..., of course.

  8. red and orange tributes are up as well as the friday 55 so please everyone check it out thanks.

  9. What a great infomative blog about your system!
    Thanks for sharing it!

  10. we have the same issue in the US as far as too many people with degrees who can't find work in their chosen field.

    Quite a few end up working at Starbucks for 11.00/hr while owing upwards of 30,00.00 in college loans.

    My dad always impressed upon me that its always to your advantage to know both a trade/profession where a college degree is unnecessary and to have a college degree - and never be too proud.

    That way when the white collar jobs are lacking you can still work with you hands.



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