Last year, I discussed not only my GCSE results, but the issues surrounding GCSEs in all their lack of glory. Today was A-level results day.
A levels mean rather a lot to most 17 and 18 year-olds in the UK. Those three to five letters have a massive bearing on where our futures go. They dictate which universities we may go to and what we may study once there. They therefore determine not only the next three years of our lives, but the many years that follow them.
Most adults will know that A-levels are not, in reality, all that important. They are a stepping stone which leads to another stepping stone. But they are just one of many stepping stones which all lead to amazing places, with or without top grades.
This year, I do not wish to talk about the grades, though. I want to revisit the billion and one things that the adult world is doing wrong in relation to A-levels.
The most blatant of these is the many issues caused by the exam boards and the government. The poor quality marking, the constantly changing standards, the poor excuses for mark schemes: studying for A-levels is hard. It is only made harder by the many extraneous variables which can have a massive impact on a person's grade. My results sheet is not indicative of my ability so much as it is connotative of the examiner's mood on the day of the marking or how much apologising the exam board is being forced to do following the previous year. If this is the case, then what is the point in the endless hours of work? While teachers and students are spending every hour of every day perfecting exam techniques, the exam boards appear to simply stick names in a hat and draw them out for each grade. This massively undermines the effort of so many, reducing them to a poorly calculated letter.
Image sourced from here.
And the pressure that accompanies this letter is so great not because it matters, but because the media makes it feel as though it does. In the week leading up to results day, it is categorically offensive to hear newsreaders bleating about the decrease in high grades, or the lowering standards, or the exam board screw-ups. The stress that this causes to so many students is wholly unnecessary and entirely unfair. This is only heightened by the reports that follow results day, where the same newsreaders announce that exams are too easy. In doing so, they not only offend those who did not obtain their desired grades, but undermine the hard work of those who did.
The most important issue, however, does not regard the students, or the teachers or even the press: it is the government department for education that truly twists the knife...
Education comes down to one thing: making useful people. Teachers train to teach. Employers seek to employ. And yet, what teachers are faced with is a set of ever-moving, ever-pointless hoops to jump and boxes to tick. They are not paid to teach. They are paid to write the learning objective on the board or to read aloud another mark scheme. Following this, employers are faced with a score of young people with no useful skills: people who can recite the requirements of the examiner and accurately describe how their grade compares to that of their friend without having acquired any relevant knowledge of life.
A-Levels are important. And that fact alone makes today a painful day for many: why should something that is indicative of very little about a person's be so important?
Congratulations to anyone who did well today and commiserations to those who did not. Regardless of your grade, it is fair to assume that every one of you will be far better than A-levels in all their entirety.