This year saw the 28th year of continuous improvement in A Level GCE grades and the 23rd year of improvement in GCSE grades. The standards of both examinations have officially been maintained during this period as confirmed by statements from both the incumbent and opposition education ministers.
Embedded within the above figures are some scary facts:
Of the A level candidates in the sciences only one in seven came from the public funded sector and at the GCSE level in science over 90% of entrants from academically selective schools achieve A-A*.
Also at GCSE, the drop in the take up of Modern Foreign Languages (40% in five years) continues unabated following the making of MFL optional for students (unlike maths, science and English, which are compulsory).
if you go to a selective school (state or independent) the brightest most motivated students get virtually identical results to the least bright and industrious (unless you believe that in (say) a Grammar School the cohorts all work equally well and are equally able).
It means that if you go to a non-selective school you are very unlikely to do science at A Level.
It means that the languages of other countries become in effect “private languages” known only to the indigenous populations as they choose increasingly to interact with you in English.
My point is:
If you are amongst the brightest of the current and coming generation of students you are not going to find the educational establishment helping you in any way to compete with the best on the global stage.
Hayley Leaver in UKFast reports on the results of a wide ranging study of teachers and the new so called Web2 technologies. In a nutshell, the teachers are afraid of the new technologies and this prevents them from taking advantage of the educational opportunities they offer.
Higher up the food chain those in the educational driving seat at Government level are happy with the current situation... if we are to believe their pronouncements.
If the professionals are too scared to help you and the education establishment will not help you, indeed it is politically inconvenient to do so, then ways around this need to be found.
Technology at Your Service
To work at the highest levels young people need access to expert teachers and to appropriate materials.
Trouble is that the best are widely distributed throughout our 4,500 secondary schools. Bit by bit the inevitable will have to happen. What I mean is probably the biggest of boo words; “elitist” education’.
In the past students were brought together from far and wide to study in specialised schools, now of course this is not necessary. Technology means that a fully distributed school is possible. The likes of Daniel Rongo’s Innovauni web site showcases the developments in Virtual Reality schools.
It may not be the Second Life vision of avatars sitting around a giant screen in virtual high schools (but it just might be). It will however, in whatever form, allow the best and most specialised teachers to access their students wherever they are.
Think of those Aussie kids in th e1950s all using RFDS radios getting their education in the outback and then update it into 3D and global. Language Teaching, no problem, learn to program...no problem.
The future of excellence in education will bring the brightest young people together with the best teachers.
The technology is already there give it a couple of years and I think the new model will kick off just after GCSE and A Level passes reach 100%.