Tag Archives: further education

Results Day

In which The Author recalls failing exams

Yet again, the pass rate for A levels in England has risen – for the 27th year in a row. 97.5% of students achieved grades A–E, it was announced earlier today.
Keira, one of my young friends, isn’t amongst their number. She bombed completely, by the sound of things. Having seen her a few times over recent months, I don’t think she really applied herself to her work. She doesn’t want to resit, she’d rather join the police instead. Keira’s father’s already told me that his daughter will join the police over his dead body. This could be fun.
I can’t talk. I messed up spectacularly during my Pure Maths exam. My friend Chris B. and I made the same mistake – integrating a solid of revolution with respect to the wrong axis – and spent valuable minutes going up some weird topological orifice of our own making.
As we left the exam room, Chris looked at me in horror and said, ‘Hollow cups!’
We both knew what had happened, but when you’re working against the clock you can’t go back and start again. I also ignored a complex numbers question because I hadn’t revised it thoroughly enough, and thereby threw away 15 easy marks. I sat down later and pissed the question without any further revision.
I didn’t get the grades I needed for my first or second choice, and ended up at the mercies of the Clearing system. I settled for a place on a different course at a university I’d never heard of. Two academic terms and a work placement later, I quit and never went back. (I found a letter from my personal tutor a couple of weeks ago, telling me that if I ever changed my mind, they’d keep my place open. Twenty-four years on, they probably wouldn’t remember me.)
A girl I’m friendly with at the moment also left after one year. It’s something else we’ve got in common.
So I know how gutted Keira must be feeling this morning. But her life isn’t over. It’s time to regroup and rethink, but it’s not time to throw your hands up and surrender. I know plenty of unemployed graduates; I also know plenty of people who left school with bugger all by way of qualifications, and who are now earning good money through their business acumen or practical skills.
I still remember the day we picked up our O level results, back in 1982. My pal Mike H. had screwed up badly, and in three consecutive subjects he’d scored a D, a U and a D.
‘Oh wow, I got a DUD!’ Mike exclaimed as a gang of us compared our printouts. We all laughed, but it wasn’t funny. Mike had been an academic high-flyer until he started to go off the rails, and we all knew his family would make his life hell.
But he went on to make a decent living as a long-distance driver, until he died suddenly a couple of years ago. It wasn’t the end of the world for Mike, and it won’t be the end of the world for Keira (although she’ll probably be grounded for several years when her mother finds out!)
It’s kids like Shanara’s cousin Seema, who’s a top-flight student and who was featured in the local paper last year, who’ll really feel the pressure from their families if they balls things up. And, having known Keira since she was born, I’m quite sure that she wouldn’t want to be part of the majority anyway.

Lite Racy Rats

In which The Author reads a worrying
report in a newspaper

Under-fives struggle with writing – report
One in seven children are unable to write their own name or recite the letters of the alphabet by the age of five, according to government figures. The results, based on teachers’ observations of more than 500,000 children throughout England as they start their formal schooling, also concluded that a third failed to recognise simple words such as ‘dog’ or ‘pen’, while 15% could not write ‘mum’ or ‘dad’ or their own name from memory.
Lee Glendinning, The Guardian, 12 October 2007
That’s scary enough, isn’t it?
It’s worse when you consider that a large proportion of those children will never grasp the basics of written English – not even after they’ve left school with 11 A* GCSEs and five A levels at Grade A.
A substantial number of them will end up at university. A percentage of those will end up imparting their half-learned ‘knowledge’ to future generations, after finding their way to a PGCE course and ending up in front of a classroom full of kids.
At present in work we’re dealing with the new intake of students to what is laughingly described as ‘Higher Education’ or ‘Further Education.’ A substantial number who come to us every year with mis-spelt reading lists, or who can’t even grasp the concept of a bibliography.
‘The author is Evans, John,’ they quote slavishly from their precious pieces of paper. They don’t even possess the imagination or initiative to turn it around and say ‘John Evans’. (Or even this: ‘I need The Mayor of Casterbridge by Hardy, T.’ – presumably the same Hardy, T. who’s listed in the phone book, living in Bridgend!)
Grasping the concept that books may actually be shelved in alphabetical order poses much the same intellectual challenge for these students as understanding that the Earth orbits the Sun did for Renaissance Europeans.
‘Where’s your ‘Quantitative Methods’ section?’ one student asked me yesterday. I think she was stunned to learn that it doesn’t exist. There were one or two books on the subject, among all the other Business Studies shit. What was she expecting: a whole bay labelled Quantitative Methods?
And explaining that a recommended textbook might not actually be available is equivalent to explaining Quantum Mechanics to a six-year-old child. It simply doesn’t register in their tiny minds. It’s beyond them.
Read Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut Jr – his first novel – for a frightening look at what our future will be like, now that our education system has been totally dumbed-down.
(Of course it’s back in print. I wouldn’t tell you to buy an out of print book, would I? What do you think I am – a fucking lecturer?)