UK Undergraduates Struggling with ‘Three Rs’

Universities in the UK have to provide undergraduates with remedial lessons in reading, writing and arithmetic as the students moving into the higher education lack basic skills, according to an 18 month research study by the Cambridge Assessment exam board.

This comes following allegations from teachers that pressure to hit Government targets on test results is leading to a culture where they have to ‘teach to the test' instead of actually providing their students with a balanced education, and that this pressure had grown to a degree where they were now effectively being forced to actively cheat on behalf of their students.

Whether students are having answers provided for them, or merely being taught in isolated blocks to pass each test like a hurdle in a race before putting it behind them forever, it's clear that even those achieving good grades at A-level are woefully underprepared for the level of knowledge and study skills required of them at undergraduate level.

One academic told researchers that most students experienced a major "culture shock" between A-levels and higher education, adding: "We try our best to help them make the transition from being spoon-fed to being able to design a spoon and then feed themselves."

According to the study, half of the lecturers surveyed believed that new undergraduates were no longer prepared for the demands of higher education and 60% had been forced to provide tuition in basic skills to drag undergraduates up to the required standard.

Cambridge Assessment said academics wanted A-levels to be overhauled to include more advanced content for bright students, cover subjects in more depth, include more extensive reading lists and encourage critical thinking, independent study and experimentation. They also called for a crackdown on the number of resits.

The UK education secretary Michael Gove is hoping to address this problem by allowing Universities a role in designing A-level curriculum so correcting what Mark Dawe, a chief executive at a wing of Cambridge Assessment, believes is the main contributing factor: design and content of qualifications shifting into the government domain over the last couple of decades.

04 4, 2012
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