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Welcome to the world of the Vincent D'Onofrio obsessed - and a bit of real life thrown in.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Why didn't anyone else think of that?

This is our illustrious Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove. Or it may be Mr Bean.

Anyway, he is meant to be in charge of education for England and Wales (though I think Wales has a bit more say in its own education these days; Scotland always did).

To get into university ove here you have to pass 18+ exams called A levels. Lots of people have been saying for years that they are getting easier, and that students arrive at uni needing remedial classes for their chosen subjects. I have no trouble with believing that, having seen the quality of learning of new teachers coming into the profession, and the ignorance of people in almost any walk of life you care to name.

So our genius boss has decided that the universities can assuage their doubts and remedy their complaints by having a say in the content of the exams and their teaching.

They don't want to know. They say, quite rightly, that A levels are not just used for university entrance. Plus actually putting your expertise where their mouths are might have unforeseen repercussions we cannot begin to imagine for these poor beleaguered academics in their ivory towers.

Thing is, although I've always taught in tough inner city schools where most kids even by 14 don't opt for languages, which is what I taught, I did have A level students on a couple of occasions. To make sure I did the best by them, at a couple of university reunions I asked my former lecturers (what in the US you call professors; for us professors are more illustrious experts who chair departments) if they could let me have a few essay questions for my students. They obliged. And when one student applied to my old university, then didn't quite get the grades they'd specified in their offer, I tried to save her a bunch of sleepless nights by phoning up to find our their decision - then found that my phone call was enough to tip the scales in her favour.

I have to believe that, just as they don't make students like they used to, they don't make lecturers that way either, 'cos 20+ years ago they played a part they seem unwilling to play today. Everybody's loss.

But Mr Gove, you weren't the first to think of it. Credit where it's due.

4 comments:

JoJo said...

I used to hear about O and A Levels and had no idea what they meant. Here, thanks to Bush's 'no child left behind' bullshit, kids have to pass standardized tests to graduate, so the teachers are teaching to the tests and the kids aren't learning a damn thing at all. They go to college unable to read, write, do math, or know anything about history, literature, etc. It's sad. REALLY sad.

Eliza said...

I remember looking at one of my kids work once, and being amazed that the spelling hadn't been corrected..if they can't even do that what hope is there of teaching them anything more taxing?

I'm not a big fan of the school system anyway, it let Hannah down so much that she left school with no real qualifications, even though she is a (in my opinion) very bright girl

vikeau said...

Oh val I feel your pain and frustration. I've been a adjunct professor(lecturer in your lingo) for over 26 years--both at the law school level and undergraduate level. Over the years I've seen a decided decrease in the basic language and writing skills of younger students. Additionally, many of the students have an expectation that if they perform the minimal requirements, that they are entitled to an "A". I can't tell you how many times I've been hauled to the Dean's office to defend a "C" or even a "B" grade. However, the trend here in the States at the undergrad level, is online teaching. I freely admit to my face to face classroom bias. Having taught online I find it extremely difficult to carry on meaningful exchanges with my students.

While I do feel that online teaching has its place once a student has demonstrated the mastery of basic skills, more and more schools are doing their entire curricular online. Having taught introductory wrtitng classes online, students are being robbed of an essential aspect of the learning experience. Again online classes do have a place in the modern world especially for the non-traditional student; older students, those in the military or students returning to finish their degrees. That being said, I fear that the trend toward all online teaching is not such a good thing as it lacks the essential element of being able to really teach critical thinking skills.

Sorry for the rant but as you can see you hit a nerve.

bobbybegood1 said...

The dumbing down of people start way before they get to college - even adulthood - simple shit that people should know but don't. For example, when adults print their names instead of signing like the directions say. How do we expect people to do well in universities when they can't even follow directions at the most basic level. Great post. Cheers Val!!

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