A lone piece of good news today comes from an unlikely source. Cambridge University…
Cambridge University has criticised the government’s plan to scrap the current system of A-levels in a letter to Michael Gove, the education secretary.
As I pointed out recently, Michael Gove is a liability. This latest bad PR day comes from the fact that a week or so ago he told everyone, without the merest hint of consultation or evidence that his plan had any merit, that the old two-year A-Level would be returning.
A-Levels were changed – split into a modular system – in 2000 as part of the Labour government’s Curriculum 2000 reform. It was, broadly speaking, a good change. Modular exams are now the norm across all qualifications and institutions in society, providing a much more thorough examination of the subject.
Indeed, contrary to what Michael Gove thinks, I would argue that the new A-Levels, which invariably require the student to sit five or six exams over two years, plus one or two resits, are much more demanding and stressful on a student than the previous unfair “how’s your luck today?” old system whereby a student would stand or fall based on a couple of exams at the end of two years.
The AS-Level, which students usually do in Year 12, has had an added bonus. It’s given universities the chance to have actual exam results to base their admissions decisions on, something they never had in the past. Getting rid of them is what has got Cambridge, and doubtless many other universities, rather flustered. They know they can no longer rely on the goodwill and honesty of Sixth Form tutors for predicted grades – the old system – precisely because competition is so fierce, and a little white lie here and there makes the whole thing so difficult to be certain about…
The hilarity of it all is that in the original plan for reform, just 19 days ago, we were told that…
Universities fear that the current “bite-sized” system in which courses are broken up into units with their own exams fails to prepare students for the demands of a degree.
… which is truly remarkable, since it brazenly fails to tell the reader that almost every university degree is “broken up into units”. Modular is the already here, it is well established, it is still the way forward, and it should be here to stay.
Furthermore, his plan was to get the likes of Cambridge to write the syllabus for his new “deep thought” A-Levels. Sounds like they’re not too keen after all.
Please, Mr Gove, stop tinkering for the sake of your ego. The education system is fed up with perpetual revolution. Admit you have spectacularly misjudged this one.