Monday, 17 August 2009

On A-Levels and exam results

Some think tank reckons that A-Levels are becoming 'Mickey Mouse' qualifications.Maybe they are are, maybe they aren't but the yearly improvement in results is something to be concerned about.

I see yesterday Usain Bolt set a new world reckon for the 100m sprint, 9.58 seconds, and in the past hundred years mankind has taken a whole second off the time for that distance.

Within the species, some people are getting faster, stronger, taller, more long lived and smarter.

But that's very different to the average improving, and at the other end of the spectrum people are slow, weak, short, dead and stupid.

Not many people can run as fast as Usain Bolt, and his existance doesn't actually prove that people on average can run faster now than ever before.

I reckon kids today are on average as smart as they were when I was at school, and when my father was at school and a hundred years ago. Maybe the smartest are smarter and maybe the dullest child no gets more support and educating than he did a hundred years ago, but that doesn't mean that the average has shifted.

Can exam grade not be just a representation of the decile? So that every year the top 10% of students in any subject gets an A, the next decile 80% to 90% gets a B and so on until the last 20% in any subject just get a fail. It would be more honest, and more representative.

It would be easier to compare two candidates for a job, it would be easier to validate the ease of exams from year to year.

It would give better direction to those who create exam papers so that from year to year if there's any bunching within the great spread of results, then the papers get harder, to seperate the wheat from the chaff, rather than easier to increase the number of passes.

Why can't life be made more honest like this? What's wrong with the world?

As a post-script, I'm wondering why the womenkind seems to have stopped making progress on the 100m sprint time, it was more than twenty years ago that the time was last improved. Since 1988 female athletes have been slowing down by 0.1s every ten years.

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