Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Have we got the right A* at A-level?

In an interesting article, Martin Stephen, The High Master of St Paul's, argues that the introduction of the A* at A-level is "the right idea, but dreadfully executed."

Daily Telegraph Article: A-level results: How can we rescue our examination system?

I have a great sympathy with Martin Stephen's argument. As I have argued previously, we desperately need a means of identifying our brightest and best to enable our universities and employers to select the most able. However, I question whether or not the mechanism chosen for doing this - rewarding those who get over 90% on their A2 module - is the right one. Ultimately this system favours those who are most careful and make the fewest mistakes. There is no scope here for taking risks or for developing creativity or flair. Not making mistakes is undoubtedly a useful attribute - we value it greatly in our accountants and medics, but we also need to encourage those who are going to think out of the box and come up with creative solutions to the next generation of problems. Given the propensity of teachers to teach to the test, I am not sure that the A* is fostering this important aspect.

1 comment:

  1. A2 marking criteria must vary from subject to subject. The Principal's comments are probably true for some subjects but not for all. Example: A2 MFL rewards knowledge, understanding and evaluation of a cultural topic based on individual research, ability to argue persuasively and to support argument with evidence, imagination and creativity. At A*/A grade level it is not all about 'playing safe', nor is it all about linguistic accuracy. The skills of the historian, the literary critic, the current affairs expert, the debator and the creative writer must all be honed in the target language for top grade success and these skills are not 'play safe' cards for today's 18 year-olds. I think an A* at A2 in MFL is a reasonalby good indication of a problem solver/creative or strategic thinker.