Try hard and fail anyway?

It’s that time of year again, that is: the publication of A-Level results, and the subsequent accusations that the exams are getting easier. I must admit I feel a lot of sympathy with the students having to weather this stressful time, which is of course made even more stressful by the the media; politicians and armchair-experts everywhere denigrating – what is for some – a well earned achievement.

I remember three years ago when I got my A-Levels and I was met with a situation a bit like many students are facing this year - in that I didn’t initially get the necessary results - and because of the competition for my degree choice I had to get a remark to be admitted; which of course is history now, as I got a remark, got onto, and have now graduated from said degree. Still this problem seems to be affecting more and more students, as A-Level passes have risen for the 27th year in a row, and this year: one in four A-levels taken this year was scored an A grade means that the problem I faced is set to become more common.

Not only that, but it has led to the inevitable moaning – from people who I believe would have happily gone to Uni, if not denied the chance for whatever reason – that A-Levels are meaningless; are being dumbed down and are a waste of time - with one back-seat commentator claiming that there is a: “serious dumbing down of standards: "All you lot who see no problem with the exam system today are condemning a generation to mediocrity”. Exams are not dumbing down as much as people seem to think. In fact, I think what we are seeing is testimony of more attuned and effective teaching methods. After all, things have moved on somewhat from the dull bombardment of facts from my Dad’s generation. Sure things aren’t perfect now, but considering that everyone nowadays is herded towards higher education is it any surprise that more people are passing?

The mere fact that A-Level entries have risen – because without A-Levels it is a huge disadvantage to people’s career aspirations as companies may not cast a look at a CV without academic qualifications – is probably more the cause of the rise of passing grades. The worst thing about this scenario is that the companies who insist on degrees are also the ones who moan that degree’s aren’t effective (a personal pet peeve of mine as a graduate), and to that all I can say is it’s the companies own fault for placing themselves – and by proxy students – into this position. Are we saying that for society to benefit more people have to fail? That is a backward thought, and one that the younger working class population is sure to bear the brunt of.

One thing is certain about today’s education system, and that is that the youth are placed at a great disadvantage as any achievement is summarily denigrated by higher-ups; jealous has-beens and know-it-all talking-heads. Once you have waded precariously through the system, you then find yourself cast into a world where no-one wants to know about you, because all the jobs seem to be reserved for people who’ve been in a career for 10 years anyway. The older generation, the ones who told us to get A-Levels and go to Uni, are the ones who hold all the jobs and consistently move the goal posts of employment and achievement. Finally to cap it all we (the 18 – 25 age-group of today) are going to have to pay their pensions with what money we do earn – and probably on top of our student debt payments. And people wonder why we have no motivation today, when everything we work hard for is often for so-little praise or reward.

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