Sir - Does Your Leader Writer Really Believe, in Respect of A-Levels, That There Are "Falling Standards of Education in Schools" (the Business, 29/30 September)?

Sunday Business (London, England), October 6, 2002 | Go to article overview

Sir - Does Your Leader Writer Really Believe, in Respect of A-Levels, That There Are "Falling Standards of Education in Schools" (the Business, 29/30 September)?


Sir Does your leader writer really believe, in respect of A-levels, that there are falling standards of education in schools (The Business, 29/30 September)? Since when? Was there some golden age in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s or even 1980s?

A-levels were introduced in 1952, when perhaps 10% of the age group (probably below 10%) sat the exam and under 5% of the age group went on to university. A-levels have evolved to reflect very different sixth-formers today.

I consider todays A-level papers harder than those I sat in 1968. A-level teaching is much more focused now than when I started teaching in 1972. I had only a vague idea then what the examiners wanted.

Since 1991, the exam boards have published mark schemes. The boards hold regular training sessions for teachers, especially when there are syllabus changes, so they have been an annual event for the past seven years.

With this guidance, it should not be a surprise that a higher percentage of students pass now than in the 1980s or before. The system is much fairer.

Do we really want to return to the early days when 40% failed? This is a waste of two years for students. If universities operated on this basis when giving degrees, they would be rightly criticised.

I now teach students who would have already left school had they been 16 or 17 in the 1970s. They pass A-levels with high, middling and low grades, reflecting their ability and industry. Some of them would have left school at 15 with no public exams passes at all had they been with me as pupils at my primary school in the 1950s. Was this the so-called golden age of higher standards?

Todays teachers should be applauded and not criticised. Students should be congratulated and their achievements not dismissed.

Falling standards? Different, perhaps, but the 21st century is different from the middle of the 20th.

Jennifer Rowan

Coalpit Heath

Bristol

Anti-war voices

Sir As we saw from last Saturdays march in London, there has been a great deal of British hostility to the idea of war against Iraq in the UK.

Many in the Labour party, and not a few in government, are against it. A few days later, the former US president, Bill Clinton, gave more tempered support for dismantling Saddam Husseins regime. But where do his fellow US Democrats stand on the issue?

Ex-vice-president Al Gore said recently: Theres no international law that can prevent the US from taking action to protect our vital interests, but neither he nor the rest of his party seem to have a strategy any different than President Bushs. Instead, Gore fell back on the safe recourse of asking for a new UN Security Council resolution.

Those of us opposed to the idea of a war seek a more passionate denunciation of an eventuality which could destroy us all. Who among western politicians will speak for us? Only Schroder and Chirac, it seems.

E Abelson

Bedford Park

London W4

Brand challenge

Sir Michael Peters bemoans the infiltration of people from business backgrounds into the field of branding and longs for a return to the simplicity of business names such as James Smith & Sons: Ironmongers (Executive Briefing, 29/30 September). …

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