For the majority of students, moving to a new city is a daunting experience in itself. However, recent studies have shown that living away from home is not the only thing that comes as a shock.
Michael Gove , the Education Secretary, has raised his concerns about the current viability of A-Level exams, saying: ”Leading university academics tell me that A-Levels do not prepare students well enough for the demands of an undergraduate degree”.
Figures show that 50% of lecturers feel that students are underprepared for the degree level work, while 60% run ‘catch-up classes’.
Mr Gove wrote to the exam regulator for England, Ofqual, to express his doubts. In this letter he indicated that he felt by letting the universities ‘drive the system’ and help create the content for the exams, students would be more prepared for studying post A-Level.
This would seem to make sense, given that the main aim of A-Levels is to provide students with the necessary qualifications for higher education. But many students feeling the teaching style drastically changes from being ‘spoon-fed’ at A-Level, to ‘independent learning’ at university.
Leeds Met student Jordan Smith said of the changes: “I think exam boards would benefit with the input from universities. The difference between uni and sixth form is huge and it would’ve been nice to have been given a bit more guidance about it during A-Levels.”
University involvement ‘the right thing’
The proposal from Mr Gove would still allow current exam boards to continue to design courses, but proof of involvement from universities would be required.
This suggestion has received mixed opinions. Ofqual chief, Glenys Stacey, was in favour of the change, stating that an increased involvement from universities would be ‘the right thing’.
However, ATL teachers’ union leader Mary Bousted, said: “Of course universities have a useful role to play in deciding what should be tested at A-Level, but A-Levels need to test more than just the ability to go to university”.
Wendy Piatt, the Ofqual’s director general, explained: “We don’t actually have much time and resource spare to spend a lot of time in reforming A-Levels.”
Anthony Seldon, head teacher of Wellington College, is on side with the proposal. He thinks a more demanding approach to essay writing is needed, saying: “Much academic rigour and zest has been lost in schools over the past 25 years. Even those with A* grades know remarkably little about physics, geography or history, for example”.
High pass rates
The changes to the exams will undoubtedly make them tougher (possibly a reason why some people are against the proposal), meaning fewer students will get the top marks.
Over the last ten years, pass rates have been continually increasing with last years results being 97.8%. Despite these positive results, a study has suggested universities want A-levels to be more intellectually stretching and not just ‘tick the boxes’.
Kyna Harmon, who is studying Photographic Journalism at Leeds Met said: “The A-Level courses just seem to be tailored to you trying to get a good grade in the exam, rather than actually teaching the skills and information you will need to know for a degree.”
With such a big change at stake, it is unlikely a decision will be a unanimous one. Although it seems fairly evident that a more ‘university compatible’ course at A-Level, would be a big help to both students and lecturers.