Thousands of teenagers receive their A-level and AS level results, and with the pass rate going up for the 27th consecutive year, the annual debate over whether education standards are falling has predictably been resuscitated. A good time, then, to revisit Donald Hirsch’s cover feature from the June issue of Prospect, in which Hirsch says we are asking the wrong questions about eduatcion. Rather than arguing about exams being dumbed down, we should instead be discussing if we are making reasonable and appropriate demands of our children, and asking what kind of education do we actually want for our children?
And while most editorials will rush to dismiss the achivements of this year’s A-level cohort, Hirsch says we should be prepared to give students more credit:
The educational experience of young people in the middle of the ability range has been transformed. Large numbers are being educated to age 18 or 21 who in the past would have left with few or no qualifications at 15 or 16. This must in part be positive news. For example, six in ten 16 year olds now get a GCSE at grade C or above in maths. Thirty years ago, most young people were turned off maths long before that age. Even if a grade C in maths GCSE is not that demanding, most 16 year olds are at least getting a qualification—helping to combat the “I can’t do maths” syndrome that hampers so many British adults.
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