A* Results While Lacking Basic Skills

I have been saying it for a long time, even though many of my colleagues have denied it. Educational standards have declined to the point that even some of the best students lack basic literacy and numeracy.

The Qualification and Curriculum Authority (QCA) has been running research trials on new functional skills tests to be introduced in 2009 for English and 2010 for maths. These trials have shown that students predicted A* grades in their results next month cannot handle percentages and angles, or full stops (periods) and commas.

As noted in the Sunday Telegraph:

Ministers fear that if the new tests are included in revamped GCSEs, the proportion of pupils gaining good grades in the two subjects, currently about half, will plunge, exposing dire standards – and the genuine achievement level – among schoolchildren.

The newspaper also quote from a letter sent to the schools minister from the QCA chief executive:

Research undertaken during the second phase of the trial indicated that candidates with actual or predicted GCSEs at grade C or above did less well than might be expected in trial assessments for functional skill.

In other words, “Even though we write the National Curriculum and vet all of the national examinations, we were not prepared for just how illiterate and innumerate the brightest pupils have become.”

I know this is true from personal experience. I teach a subject which requires 14 to 16-year-olds to write essay answers. Getting past the problem that many of them have near-illegible handwriting (because that is a skill that has been abandoned for many years here), is it often nigh on impossible to read even after the words have been deciphered. Try reading an essay with only the occasional full stop, when there is no use of capitalisation to figure out where a new sentence might be beginning. Some students have heard of the comma, but appear blissfully unaware that the art of punctuation extends beyond these two marks. Admittedly. some are familiar with the one used for exclamation, because once they have discovered it, they can’t help but use it.

The problem extends beyond punctuation. You may recall I mentioned a few days ago that out of an entire class of middle-ability Year 10s, not one pupil knew what a prefix or a suffix was.

This is the group to whom many in the Government want to extend the right to vote when they reach the age of 16. I can only think their reasoning is that by dumbing down the education system, young voters will choose how to vote because they can read “Labour”, but “Conservative” will be too big a word with too many syllables.

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4 Responses to A* Results While Lacking Basic Skills

  1. Pingback: medtrials.info » Blog Archive » A* Results While Lacking Basic Skills

  2. Sean W says:

    Say, when you write ‘near-illegible handwriting’, are you referring to one pupil in particular?

    But as far as I am concerned, I am sufficiently literate.

    Ha, wednesday mornings will be so dull.

  3. Sean W says:

    *Wednesday^^^

  4. Dave says:

    There you go, my point exactly.

    But at least once I deciphered your handwriting, you actually had something to say.

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