Letters: Hats off to students

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The Independent Culture
Hats off to students

Sir: Syllabuses are demanding less of students ("Students are trapped on a treadmill of endless exams", 19 August)? What nonsense - not in my 20-plus years' experience of teaching O level, GCE, GCSE science and A- level biology.

I did my O and A levels in the late Sixties and I had nowhere near the volume and depth of subject matter to absorb as today's students do. Biochemistry, molecular biology, ecology and physiology were sparingly covered and one needed only to learn the facts off by heart to do well and not exhibit any understanding. Not so nowadays.

I do not envy the task facing today's students and I often feel overwhelmed with the amount of subject material we are expected to get through, not to speak of ensuring that that difficult element called understanding has been achieved, particularly for the able students. I take my hat off to those who score the top grades. They know their stuff and that's for sure.

To say that sixth-form students are ill-prepared for the first year of their university course implies that they do not know enough. That is not so. It would be nearer the truth to say that they may not know what the university course expects them to know. The solution to that is for universities to look at the A-level syllabuses, familiarise themselves with the examination papers and adapt their courses to them.