Thursday, 17 November 2011

Dumb and dumberer - The state of state education

We believe education for the masses in the UK has been markedly dumbed down, and the state is purposely doctoring examination results to disguise the fact. Judging by our admittedly brief research, it would appear we are not alone in this belief.

Speaking in 1999, headmaster of Winchester College James Sabben-Clare, said the government and exam boards should admit that the value of the A level as the "gold standard" had been debased: "Only 20 years ago, the most successful schools had about a third of their candidates getting A grades - this year it was three-quarters," But he added that he knew that 'the leavers of 1999 were no cleverer overall than those of 20 years before'. (Education: A levels under fire, BBC News 4 October 1999)
     In 2000 a professor at Durham University, Carol Fitz-Gibbon claimed in 2000 that examiners were marking papers less strictly and that it was then easier to score higher grades than it had been previously. (Exams not dumbed down, say heads, BBC News 7 August 2000)
Ex-Chief Inspector of Schools Chris Woodhead warned in 2004 that: ‘We're spending more and more to keep our children at school longer and longer, and yet they know less than their peers did 20, 50, 100 years ago'. (Sad truth of falling standards: the 11-plus that would give today's sixth-formers a headache, The Independent, Oliver Duff, Friday, 26 November 2004- Also in 2004 a study by Coventry University revealed, that GCSE's had been so dumbed down that an A* at maths GCSE in 2004 was only just equal to a grade E at 'O' level GCE in 1997. The chief executive of the Careers Research Advisory Centre, David Thomas, said the percentages of students obtaining A-grade passes "are now starting to get rather alarming".
(Exam board head denies 'dumbing down', The Independent, Richard Garner 16 August 2004 -
     Speaking in 2005 Shadow Education Secretary Tim Collins said 'Some questions in today's A-levels are suspiciously similar, if not identical, to questions in O-level papers from 20 or 30 years ago'.
     In 2007 the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which compares education standards in 57 countries (the countries included account for 90% of the worlds economy), showed that British children had dropped from 7th to 17th place in reading, in science they had plummeted from 4th to 14th and staggeringly in mathematics they had fallen from 8th to 24th place. (British pupils falling in world rankings, Times Online, Nicola Woolcock and Alex Frean 5 December 2007 -
     Speaking in 2007, George Turnbull of the ‘Qualifications and Curriculum Authority’ said, 'Generations of youngsters have gone through school without having any spelling, grammar or punctuation instilled in the way they did at one time'. (Are school standards slipping? BBC News, Melissa Jackson 16 August 2007)
     In 2008, speaking to the schools select committee, David Robb from Imperial College London, said that universities routinely had to hold ‘catch up’ classes for students who had received excellent A-level results, but who still struggled with basic disciplines such as maths and science. (Falling school standards: Can students cope at University, Anthea Lipsett 12 June 2008 -
     Also in 2008 the Royal Society of Chemistry warned that standards in science exams in UK schools had been eroded and the system was failing a generation. (In reply the government said that standards in science subjects were improving year after year, but the RSC countered that the students were taught to answer: ‘undemanding questions to satisfy the needs of league tables and national targets’ rather than learning how to problem solve. Chief Executive Richard Pike said 'We know that enthusiastic teachers are being compelled to 'teach to the test' to meet the demands of school league tables which draws mainly on the recalling of facts, with no reference to logic or mathematics. That means the brightest pupils are not being stretched, or trained in mathematical techniques, because they can get a grade A* without doing a single calculation'. (Science exam standards 'eroded',, Angela Harrison 26 November 2008 - )
     Papers obtained under the Freedom of Information Act showed that examiners had voiced concerns that wrong answers were being accepted in some exams, but their fears were dismissed by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. (Wrong answers in school tests marked as correct by examiners, The Telegraph, Julie Henry 27 September 2008 - The same year, a government think-tank Reform stated that: ‘School mathematics exams in England have become easier, shallower and less demanding.’ The report went on to say that: ‘Analysis of public maths exam papers taken by 16-year-olds between 1951 and 2006 shows standards have declined markedly. A simplification trend began in the 1980s with an attempt to show mathematics in context, but the syllabus remained comparable to that of earlier years. But there was a steep decline in standards from 1990 onwards, once GCSEs were introduced’. The report added that the noticeable increase in achievement since the 1990s was ‘highly misleading’. (Maths exams have become easier, BBC News 3 June 2008 )
     In 2009 Dr Pike of the RSC said that 'the science community has identified entire science papers with no underlying maths, and science questions with no science. This is a blatant breach of expected standards'. ('Fine exam boards' that dumb down, BBC News Online 6 November 2009 -
     Added to this often ignored plethora of opinion that education is being dumbed down, we have an unsupervised educational system where plagiarised coursework can be handed in for up to half of the final mark. This is simply gives unscrupulous student’s licence to cheat. If you doubt this simply Google the number of Internet sites where coursework is 'for sale'. Most exam boards are aware of the sites that exist to sell coursework to students and a quick Google with a few key words from candidates' supposed own work usually exposes the students. That is not to say that some don't get past the exam boards without being caught, and no exam board can monitor the amount of individual teacher help the pupils receive.
     Traditionally O-Levels were completed wholly by students working under strict and supervised exam conditions and only 1 in 5 of the population could achieve 5 passes. For instance, Coursework under current GCSE English provision counts for a maximum of 40% of the final GCSE. This includes Speaking and Listening (usually worth 20%). This is open to abuse, through candidate plagiarism or teacher cheating.
     Standards in English have dropped. Some of this is down to cheating and exam boards' tacit collusion; mostly it is down to governmental pressure on exam boards to show that standards are improving, so they drop the pass mark for passing, even if overall standards are falling. Critics of the education system say that year-on-year improvements in school-based examinations including SATs tests, GCSEs and A-levels may be because of "dumbing down" of exams which are simply easier to pass. Exams are routinely multiple choice and children also have the option of unlimited re-sits of ‘bite-size’ modules. Teachers are also instructed by examination governing bodies not to mark pupils down for grammatical or spelling errors.
     The Government denies these claims, but the facts obviously speak for themselves. There is also competition between opposing exam boards, with some even producing text books which instruct students how to pass the exam. (How Labour's 'reforms' of A-levels have dumbed down exams, Daily Mail, Laura Clark 25 February 2010 -
     The state also points to the fact that there are more people attending university than ever before, but as the study by Coventry University shows, attaining the qualifications needed for entrance to University is not as demanding as it once was. The rise in university attendance also keeps students off the unemployment register, with the introduction of tuition fees it also enables universities to grow and employ more people.
Why would they allow standards to drop so much? Wouldn’t that be against the national interest to have a uneducated population? Of course, it depends on what the 'national interest' of the ruling classes is, and it appears it is not the same national interest ordinary patriots would identify with.
     By dumbing down the population, they have excluded many people from the democratic process. The less educated, the lower the horizons of people and the more apathetic they are. They do not expect as much, are more easily pleased and don't have the temerity or the will to become politicised. How many times have you heard "It's pointless voting, we'll never change anything"? Therefore the ruling middle class can follow a solely middle class agenda at home and abroad.
     It is happening, and happening now. If the state wont educate us, we need to educate ourselves and our children if the British are to survive as a people. Wake up, and equip yourself with education, before it is too late.

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