Return of the O-level: Ditch those computers and learn Latin

It’s great being old enough to remember how things were last time around. It’s also never been a better time to manifest multiple-personality disorders especially in that zaniest of professions, education. In a back to the future...

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It’s great being old enough to remember how things were last time around. It’s also never been a better time to manifest multiple-personality disorders especially in that zaniest of professions, education.

In a back to the future moment today we hear from mad Micky Gove that the A level and the O level will be returning very soon. For those that don’t remember these exams, the A level was a two year course culminating in a final exam, and as it was set by universities, was in effect an entrance exam to academic education.

The O level was an exam taken at 16 which covered a range of academic subjects distinguishing it from the CSE which was more vocational and less difficult.

To cut a long story short the O level and CSE were amalgamated into the GCSE. To give an idea of levels, A* at GCSE today would map to a pass C at O Level. The A level morphed into two qualifications: the AS and A2 levels were modular exams which you could re-sit several times. The AS level was roughly equivalent to an O level.

I know all of the above because I taught both systems for many years and have little time for Government apparatchiks or vainglorious callow headteachers who would gainsay me.

But given the sheer enormity of the changes here are things techies need to know:

1) The A and O GCE exams are academic not technical...not technical even a little bit and are only suitable for the few, not the many.

What does academic mean? It means working without getting your hands dirty. Dirty hands are technical and so lower class. Clean hands are cerebral and so suitable to govern the oik or create grand ideas. You may have a problem with this…

2) Technical education will be part of vocational education and delivered through the BTEC system of Levels 1,2,and 3 in schools and colleges.

What does this mean? It means that no-matter how well computing or engineering is taught or how bright and excellent the students are it will always be in the same building as hair-dressing and child-care. Does this matter, oh yes. No elite Civil Service status for you techie-boy.

3) The one good thing: they propose one exam board- not the multiple bunch of rip-off merchants we have now who compete in a popularity contest to deliver the most modules in the stupidest courses that appeal to the dumbest.

I mentioned multiple-personality disorders at the start of the article. Here I am preparing to return to my elite academic persona of 25 years ago but at the same time earning a little top-up cash creating student performance tracking systems for Local Authorities.

Why do I need a personality disorder? Because in order to get the functionality I require I have had to ditch open source that I love and will move to 365 hosting on G-Cloud. What happened to my principles, what happened to the revolution?

Tell me straight Doc, did the last twenty or so years not happen? Am I getting dementia or is Double-Think the new sanity? I love Microsoft, I teach O levels I need help.

PS
. apologies to those of my readers that suffer from a mental disorder, as according to the Radio 4 it accounts for 50% of the illnesses under 65. In no way do I wish to trivialise this subject.

PPS. FYI Alan Turing had a private academic education before going up to Cambridge University and was a bit nuts.

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