UK Government Set to Curb Grade Inflation

Thanks to decades of grade inflation, the UK has a public examination system that is failing badly, writes the Telegraph.

They believe that universities and employers find the process of sorting the wheat from the chaff increasingly difficult, and that students are cheated because a system designed to sort by ability no longer does that honestly or fairly.

There’s no denying that exam grades are getting better and better, so why has our position in international league tables has become worse and worse?

According to the OECD, Britain has “stagnated” while other countries forge ahead: at the age of 15, British pupils are roughly two years behind Shanghai’s. The long-term economic impact of this decline could be immense.

In an important speech yesterday to the exam regulator OFQUAL, Michael Gove delivered a welcome blast of common sense, writes the Telegraph:

“The Education Secretary was unsparing in his criticism of the status quo. He pointed out that an increasing number of universities are being forced to offer remedial courses for students who are unprepared for further study; that the Royal Society of Chemistry had noted a “catastrophic slippage” in school science standards”

Sir Richard Sykes, the former rector of Imperial College London, has described GCSEs as offering “soundbite science” based on a “dumbed-down syllabus”.

The Secretary of State went on to question the validity of an exam system:

“that no longer allows us to distinguish the best candidates… we may soon have to invent a Milky Way of A double and triple stars simply to allow the top performers to stand out”.

Gove suggested that the number of A*s awarded each year could be fixed to set a genuine benchmark of excellence. Tougher marking might mean that some GCSE and A-level results actually dip – something that has not happened for almost 30 years.

But one commenter on the Telegraph article criticized Gove, citing Education By Numbers, saying that much of Gove’s criticism of Labour’s education record is:

“[B]ased on not understanding that as more people take part in PISA it is possible for the UK to go down in position while actually improving. If you actually look at the PISA results in terms of percentiles instead of positions the UK actually IMPROVES between 2006 & 2009 in Maths & Science but does drop 10 percentile points in Reading.”

2006 PISA results
Reading- 17th of 57…………..30th percentile
Maths – 25th of 57……………..44th percentile
Science- 14th of 57…………….25th percentile

2009 PISA results
Reading- 27th of 67…………..40th percentile
Maths – 28th of 67……………..42nd percentile
Science- 16th of 67…………….24th percentile

Gove admires the system that has been introduced in Burlington Danes Academy in West London, in which every pupil knows the relative position in which they have come in every subject, whether that is first or 101st.

Parents have embraced this scheme, the Telegraph writes, because it gives them information they have hitherto been denied. In turn, it allows teachers to be assessed on the basis of which of them add value, as shown by changes in the rankings.