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More superb stuff from Michael Gove: elite universities to set A-Levels

19 replies

longfingernails · 02/04/2012 23:16

Gove's education reforms are single-handedly making this entire government worthwhile, despite all of Cameron's cockups.

OP posts:
EdithWeston · 03/04/2012 08:05

I saw this on Newsnight last night, and here's the BBC on it this morning.

I do think that reducing/eliminating modules would be a good step, and the (gently floated) idea of abolishing the AS exam seems a very good idea, as I think it is crazy that there are public exams three years running.

TheFallenMadonna · 03/04/2012 08:08

The BBC story is from July 2010.

EdithWeston · 03/04/2012 08:12

I didn't spot that! The BBC had it as a main link to their top story today, so they must have seen its contents as still relevant.

Iggly · 03/04/2012 08:12

Modules can work well for subjects like maths where you are required to understand basic principles before taking the next set of modules. otherwise cramming it all in the end was silly. My science degree (from UCL) was the same and I didnt need any top up as was more than capable.

However the AS system where you do loads of subjects in the first year then narrow down is silly.

(I did modular sciences and maths, ten years ago, before the change to the AS approach and it was harder if you had to resit as would need to do several exams alongside each other).

So good idea but let's see how long the government can wait before meddling as it alway ends up doing

TheFallenMadonna · 03/04/2012 08:19

Ironically, my A levels weren't modular, but my degree, from one of the universities mentioned, was...

MoreBeta · 03/04/2012 08:34

I would like to see a return to the type of A levels I faced when I did them 30 years ago. The explosion of commercially focussed exam boards competing with each other to set the easiest exam possible to attract as many customers as possible is madness on stilts.

The A level in my day was heavily influenced by the universities - it was the gold standard and respected all over the world. It wa sthe basis of an education system that attracted many people to come to the UK to be educated. We are in dfanger of losing that respect and valuable UK export.

The big problem though is that if universities set harder A levels then the universities will have to accept they too have to become smaller and take less students. Will that really happen or will the commercial pressure to get as many students as possible into university still trump the need for a proper exam system. Telling 50% of children that they have the intellect to go to university and then accrue a big pile of debt that does not get them a decent job is one of the biggest and worst lies told to the younger generation. It has reached a crisis point in the USA where student debt is now higher than credit card debts.

If A levels exams are toughened then FEWER more children shoudl take them and fewer go to university. That is the natural outcome. I won't hold my breathe. I still think universities will pack them in the lecture theatres to get the fees in and regardles of what grades they got in their A levels.

EdithWeston · 03/04/2012 08:42

Iggly: surely pupils can still learn the maths in a structured timetable (ie the learning part of the the current modules), using previously learned knowledge as they go along, and then it's all demonstrated in one set of exams.

Cramming at the end is only a burden if you haven't understood it as you've gone along. and of course if the knowledge is necessary for each module, then you'll be still using it, so cramming unlikely to be required. The "fire and forget" side effect of modules (items learned but not retained beyond duration of module) is one of the specific things pinged by the university commentator on BBC this morning when talking about why A levels in their current form left students ill-equipped for the demands of undergraduate courses.

rabbitstew · 03/04/2012 08:43

I didn't do modular A-levels and my degree result was based on 8 exams at the end of 3 years. Result: a lot more time enjoying the summer in the exam-free years, although your entire university degree result revolving around a few days of exams is somewhat stressful (much more so than A-levels). Have fewer public exams and just maybe the exam papers will be of a higher quality (more time for the exam setters to make them so...) and the exam markers will do a better job... and people who actually like their subject and want to do it will be able to enjoy their learning, rather than spending the whole time revising and turning it into a dull chore. The worst possible way to learn is to be tested every few months, unless your main aim is to learn how to pass tests.

GooseyLoosey · 03/04/2012 08:48

I think it sounds like a good idea, although I am cautious about further knee jerk educational reforms. I would like to see some thoughful measured analysis of what the changes would be and where we would like them to lead us.

Dh and I have both taught in universities. Dh has said that in recent years they have had to introduce foundation courses for students as the A'level syllabus no longer covers what they need them to have learnt.

My experience was that students no longer have any general interest in the subject. Every tutorial contained the question "will this be on the exam" and if it would not be they had no interest in it - even though this was a professional legal qualification and they needed the information to practice successfully.

MrPants · 03/04/2012 09:40

I think this is long overdue and commend the government for trying to sort it out. For what it's worth, I think Gove is the best performing minister in the cabinet by a long way - in a distant second place would be IDS. I like the way he seems to 'get' that education should put the kids future employment prospects first and I believe that in a profession of spin and make believe Gove has integrity. Could he be future leadership material???

MoreBeta · 03/04/2012 10:40

Goosey - I was talking to a university lecturer a few weeks ago and she said exactly what you said.

"Every tutorial contained the question "will this be on the exam" and if it would not be they had no interest in it.."

She said even Masters students who are supposed to be specalising and on a course requiring deeper learning for profesisonal qualifications have the same attitude.

I certainly witnessed this on an undergrad pre-course programme last year where fIrst year students straight out of A levels complained bitterly if the lecturer asked them to do any writing or note taking. Everything had to be spoon fed in pre digested pre printed folder notes. There really was no commitment to learning for the sake of learning. The students expected to pass with little or no commitment beyond retaining the basic facts of each module in their short term memory.

DW is a part time lecturer and she says students just sit filming or recording her on their iPhones. Most never read the class text and often email her their final disertations and ask her to edit it before they finally hand it in. This is what they did in school of course for A levels where teachers guided and helped them through each module before handing in their work to be marked. DW refuses but it is real battle of expectations.

Iggly · 03/04/2012 11:26

Edith when I did modules, the later modules assumed knowledge from the earlier modules. You couldn't do the later ones without the earlier ones iyswim.

Iggly · 03/04/2012 11:28

So there's no "fire and learn". You cannot get away with not knowing the basics. It works well for subjects like maths but not sure about others.

SerialKipper · 03/04/2012 11:35

Wot MoreBeta said at 08:34, especially the last two paras.

I actually came here to point and laugh at the obvious fail of "get commercial organisations (as universities now are) to set their own entrance exams".

rabbitstew · 03/04/2012 13:46

I don't think the Tories would have a problem with seriously cutting back on the number of people who go to university - there should be better alternatives to university for most people, anyway. And the universities the Tories want to see setting the exams are not the ones that would disappear as a result.

But then I also don't think the Tories would have a problem with wealthy people largely being able to pay their way into university, provided their grades are reasonable, and a few places being left for the lucky few who get through on genuine merit, on scholarships. That would suit the Tories beautifully. Back to the good old days, pre-the State helping with student fees. I doubt the Tories would put sufficient effort into any alternatives to university, either.

Iggly · 03/04/2012 14:54

Agree rabbit

I'm not sure why retakes are being scrapped either. What a madness.

gelatinous · 03/04/2012 15:55

If it were down to me I'd keep AS levels but abolish January modules, so all AS modules had to be sat in June of L6 and all A2 modules a year later. I'd allow retakes, but they wouldn't be so attractive to people as there would only be one retake opportunity for AS level modules at the end of yr 13 when there would already be a fairly heavy exam burden. I wouldn't take away all second chances though - that's too draconian and discriminates too much against children who do badly on the day for genuine reasons.

This would be really easy to implement and could be done without changing syllabuses. We could then see how much harder it made exams before implementing any other changes. It would be great for schools too as without the Jan exam sessions they would get lots of extra teaching time.

I would also make reporting the AS module grades compulsory on UCAS - this would be very useful for universities making offers more fairly - it seems a nonsense at the moment where some people put them on and others don't

EdithWeston · 03/04/2012 18:08

Iggly - we must be in agreement then: as surely if there's no "fire and forget", then logically there can be no possible objection to abolishing modules as the information will be used throughout and so will be ready for final examination.

The university bod I saw did say that there are modular courses where "fire and forget" is indeed a problem, and that the problem with repeated fedora is that they are associated with poor performance at degree level.

Betelguese · 15/04/2012 15:22

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