Thursday, August 14, 2008

The problem isn't the number of A level passes its we can't differentiate the pass levels

Firstly, well done to all those who passed their A Levels and commiserations to those who failed; they can only deal with what is put in front of them. Those who took their A Levels should ignore most of the carping, it is people pulling up the drawbridge, and get on with their lives.

I say most, because there is one problem that the large number of passes is creating and it is a problem that I am sure that those who want to make education an agent for social mobility won't have thought about. By having so many passes across such a small number of grades we have bunching and in this case 25.9% getting A grades, for example. This gives employers and universities a real headache - how do they know which are the brightest?

The may appear at first glance seem be the outcome that is desired, but is it? Lets say that all the top grades want to do the same degree (or apply for the same job) and places are rationed. Universities (and employers) won't be able to select the best* so they will have to go through the a selection procedure to get a short list that will probably include interviews. At this stage those who come from middle class backgrounds are more likely to have the confidence to sail through an interview whilst those from a poorer background are more likely to be daunted by the thought and may not even take the exams.

I have no proof and I hope I am wrong, but I have been around long enough to know that when it comes selection procedures involving interviews we all start to be swayed by our own prejudices and take a liking to those from our own background or who are confident. If the pool is smaller and someone lacks confidence but has shown they have ability in exams they are more likely to be accepted.

*Employers don't always want to pay for the brightest and might be willing to accept second best. Again, their life is made more difficult.

No comments: