RIGOROUS education is dead. That message was delivered last week with the news that if your A Levels were physics, biology, and maths, a 60 per cent score in each would have been more than enough for three As. Grading on a bell curve is like smoking ten a day when all your friends smoke twenty. Sure, you have standards, and it feels good to be the healthiest. But your frame of reference is warped and you shouldn’t be surprised by the forthcoming lung cancer diagnosis.
These are the subjects which are taken by our future engineers, pilots and doctors. Maybe we’d do well to inject some level of objectivity in assessing their proficiency.
The next nail in the coffin came with the news that the government’s new ‘T Levels’ will have an obscene parity with A Levels. If you don’t know, T Levels are two-year courses starting in September 2020 in a variety of subjects including animal care and management, catering, cultural heritage and visitor attractions and digital business services.
According to the government ‘these courses have been developed in collaboration with employers and businesses so that the content meets the needs of industry and prepares students for work.’
So why on earth has it been decided that someone who gets a starred distinction in a hair and beauty T Level will have the equivalent of three A*s at A Level? If this is meant to be a vocational qualification, why have a false equivalence with someone who studied maths, further maths, and physics at A Level?
I would never wish to block someone who had taken T Levels from going to university, but there are alternative routes for those who have not done A Levels, such as a foundation year. As someone who took a BTEC, I realised how easy it was to game the system. The pass, merit, distinction grading system supposedly gave me the equivalent of AAB at A Level. As a student then I knew it was nonsense. As a teacher now, I feel it’s criminal.
Perhaps the real reason we force this parity is because if we’re willing to hand out A grades at A Level so easily, we’ve already given up on the idea that they’re academic. And perhaps it’s a cliché, but in the age of the snowflake ‘everybody gets a medal’ culture, clear academic standards are, by definition, an ideological threat.