Education Letter: What do A-levels mean?

Opinions on girls and science, literacy and numeracy tests, Chris Woodhead, the role of research, and falling academic standards
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The Independent Online
NOW IT appears that the implementation of the national curriculum and the GCSEs has led us to the point where teachers have to be tested for literacy and numeracy (The Independent, 4 February). Those of us who have constantly questioned the standards achieved in the GCSE examinations may surely afford a wry smile.

Are we to suppose that graduates with degrees in Mathematics are to be tested for numeracy and that those with degrees in English will need to prove their literacy? If so, then one is surely entitled to ask what A- level qualifications and degrees now mean. Will it be necessary for modern linguists to show that they really can speak and write French or German? Can we be assured that those with degrees in History or Physics really know their subjects?

Is it really any wonder that employers are uneasy about the real value of our education system, or that our universities are ever more despondent about the real standards manifested by new undergraduates? Those same universities are forced for financial reasons to relegate the importance of proper teaching, because their staff need to concentrate on research. If this is so, they can not logically be blamed for inadequacies revealed by graduates.

Is it not time to stop, draw breath and to admit that recent education policies have led us to a position where we have been systematically hood- winked - and at an enormous price.

JOHN C LEES, Bath

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