Education, education, education

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Back in June 2015 I wrote a blog post titled Dumbing Down Education? where I showed some of the questions asked of 16 year olds sitting their GCSE Maths papers.

Well, I decided to take another look at exam questions following the furore over SATS (or National Curriculum tests) for 11 year olds.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3675842/Half-11-year-olds-fail-new-chaotic-Sats.html

http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/686824/SATS-test-results-primary-school-year-6-Nicky-Morgan-education

This was the first year that the curriculum has been in operation and therefore the tests have been changed to reflect new, higher expectations of both the teachers and the pupils.

Following the results of the tests, official data shows 47 per cent of pupils did not make the grade in reading, writing and mathematics. Some headteachers had called for the test results not to be published as the results were lower than expected.

So, what were the tests? Were they really that difficult that nearly half of the 11 year olds didn’t pass?

As a matter of course, having two children, one 9 year old and the other 6 years, we download past SATS papers and give these to our kids to try out. Obviously the 6 year old is a long way off being able to do much of what is expected of a child 5 years his senior but his older brother, age 9, is a more relevant example of what might be expected (even though he is still 2 years short of sitting the SATS tests).

To give you an example of what is expected of an 11 year old, here’s the first five questions from the maths tests for 2016.

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Now, adding 100 to 987 or dividing 326 by 1 doesn’t seem very taxing. And I can confirm it’s not very taxing for a 9 year old either, never mind a child two years older.

Yes, obviously the questions do get slightly harder as you go through the paper but there’s only 35 questions in this maths paper and just answering those first five correctly is a reasonable chunk of the test.

So, what to make of the fuss kicked up by some teachers and headteachers? Changing the curriculum is always going to throw up a few problems, the least of which is when people compare the latest results with the previous year. Last year around 80% of the children passed the test, this year only 53% did.

But is the change a good thing? On balance I would say yes, it is. One of the more noticeable changes to the curriculum in maths in the past year was that teachers are now allowed to teach the children the times-table. By this I mean teach them by repeating the tables over and over until they become second nature to the child – the way most of us learnt them in the past. Almost unbelievably, teaching tables by rote (by repetition) was not allowed in schools in recent years and, if schools did teach that way, they would get marked down by OFSTED.

So, it seems some common sense has prevailed.

Now all the teachers need to do is ensure that the kids they teach can add 100 to 987 or divide 326 by 1. But perhaps that’s easier said than done when reading, writing and arithmetic have to be squeezed in at Primary School alongside guitar lessons, golf lessons, dance, drum lessons, tennis, trips to supermarkets (I kid you not!) and everything else.

Perhaps, and it’s just a thought, schools should concentrate on the important things (to most people this would be reading, writing and arithmetic) and leave the golf, tennis etc to after-school clubs. But, hey, what do I know? I’m just a parent!

 

Thanks for reading.

Jack Diamond

(The views expressed in our Guest Blogs are personal opinions only and do not reflect the views of PCGraphics.)

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Dumbing down education?

if youve landed here

More thoughts, submitted on an occasional basis by our Guest Blogger:  Jack Diamond.

Dumbing down education?

Over the years there’s been a lot of comment in the newspapers about the standard of education here in the UK. It’s probably true that most of what is written washes over your head or you think it’s all exaggerated by the newspapers and media. But then, if you start to look into it, you begin to wonder if all those people who talk about education being ‘dumbed down’ in recent years might actually be right.

Recently we had reason to look at a GCSE maths paper. These are all available to download online and the ones we tried were from AQA.

Have a look at a sample of the questions from last year’s (November 2014) maths paper and decide for yourself if maybe, just maybe, we ought to be trying to stretch the minds of our school children a little bit further. Remember, these are from a GCSE paper which is aimed at 16 year olds.

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There is a maximum score of 66 marks for the paper, but you only need to get 75% correct to get a C grade.

With the greatest respect to anyone taking these tests, you’d have to be having a really bad day not to get a C grade from this paper.

The examples above are from what’s called the Foundation Tier exam – the maximum grade, even if you answer all the questions correctly, is a C grade. If you’re a real high flyer, apparently, you get entered for the Higher Tier exam instead. Here’s some examples of the more difficult questions in the Higher Tier.

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If you’re like me you’d wonder if they might be trick questions. I mean, they give you the answers in the question – 33 men said yes, they own a car. Question: How many men said they own a car?

‘Show that 24 people were in the museum at 8 am.’ Well, I guess that would be 30 – 6.

And, remember, this is the Higher Tier, supposed to be for the brighter 16 year olds.

Dumbing down education? It looks like they might be right.

Or maybe it’s that, in recent years, there’s a expectation everyone should be able to get a qualification, even if that qualification is meaningless. The same happened with university degrees. At one time they were a sign of a certain level of intelligence or attainment but these days, when it’s expected that just about anyone can and should go to university, the whole concept of a degree gets devalued.

Or, maybe it’s just me and we should accept that 65p x4 or 30-6 are tricky sums for a 16 year old these days?

 

Thanks for reading.

Jack Diamond

(The views expressed in our Guest Blogs are personal opinions only and do not reflect the views of PCGraphics.)

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