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Are 'A' level exams getting easier to pass?

Are 'A' level exams getting easier to pass?
Aug 21, 2008: Higher educational institutions in England are at a loss how to accommodate so many 'A' level high graders to choice courses as the pass percentage in the high school examination rises yearly. This would be the 26th year in a row when the percentage has gone up marking a record 97.2 per cent in the results announced last week. More than half of all the grades awarded were As or Bs. Educational experts doubt the government claim that standards are going up because teachers and students are doing better and better. Have teenagers really become brighter and more hard-working year on year, asks the Sunday Times and says many teachers and universities have their doubts.

This is not being questioned in Pakistan where teaching standards are far poorer and private schools preparing students for the 'A' level examination are purely commercial enterprises whose ranking as educational institutions can only be determined by the amount in thousands they charge as fee. And yet as newspaper pictures of high achievers of our Islamabad elite schools, getting seven or eight As (rare and almost unheard of even in England) show, there must something be the matter with this entire issue of examination quality sliding and qualifier quantity rising. And for overseas students, it is quite likely, this standard may have been lowered even further to encourage more of them to opt for this system in preference to their national high school curriculum. Education export is big business for advanced countries. It would be interesting to know how much money in expensive foreign exchange Pakistani students are paying annually as fee for O and A level examinations.

In Britain, more than one in 10 of the 300,000 A-level students now achieve at least three A grades, making it difficult for the top universities to adjudge who is the best. At Oxford last year, it is reported 5,000 applicants were refused admission to choice courses who had come with three As to their credit. The glut of high achievers has forced universities to introduce their own qualifying tests. According to a report, there are some 57 separate university entrance tests, many for popular courses such as law and medicine. The Imperial College, London, has minced no words in saying, "we can't rely on A-levels any more. Everybody who applies has got three or four A's."

Commenting on the situation, columnist Rod Liddle wrote: Our young people are so clever that this year only 2.8 per cent of them failed their A-levels; cynics say that this is because the exams are so easy that a pig's ladder on a stick could gain a B grade – but, as we are often reminded, comments like this demean the very real achievements of our students and should not be tolerated. Instead, let us look forward to the day when there is a 100 per cent pass rate, or even greater -- and every abject cretin can go on to read applied concrete, or may be media studies, at the University of Central Thanet. One wonders quite what level of imbecility is required to gain entry to that exclusive 2.8 per cent. But, I dare say we will find out when the next edition of Big Brother comes to our screen.

These are indeed irrelevant matters and would hardly occur to the largely ignorant ruling class or even to the education establishment of the country. Had it not been so the educational system left by the colonials would have been trussed and trimmed to suit our national needs? It was blamed for creating a servant class and destroyed by corrupt educationists during the sixties and seventies although it had created eminent scholars and men of learning the equals of whom no later system of education introduced in Pakistan was able to produce. Now between the Urdu and English medium syllabi and the madressah and O/A levels systems the national body of education has been so split apart, it is a schizophrenic prescription for disunity of thought and feeling. Instead of nurturing the creative genius of the people, it has created a confused mass of youth that is running helter skelter like motley flocks in a safari park. Most of them would fly away if they got the chance; yes, even the ultra zombies of the suicide squads. Dawn

Your Comments
"it is unfair to the students of external education programmes to suggest that the studies and examinations are higher!!! and who says that everyone gets As and Bs????majority of the students in every school end up with Ds, Es and even can you expect the schools to publish these grades in newspapers along with the high achievers????nobody does that....not even FSc and Matric schools do that. and why not??? why is it so hard to believe that students are becoming more intelligent? are we really that old-fashioned or ignorant as to acknowledge the truth and defy changes? kindly do not reside to snide remarks and do not underrate ALevel and Olevel students!!!! Iv even seen students who desrve High As i.e 95% or above getting Bs and Cs simply because the exam was difficult."
Name: Amna
City, Country: Rawalpindi, Pakistan

"i just want to say that this is a fact that pakistani students are far better than other countries. as you know the topper students in O and A levels always come from Pakistan on the other hand the sylabus they follow in england is different from what we follow in pakistan and there paper is also different .. I have seen 3 of my friends getting Cs and Ds in pakistan getting straight As in A levels in England."
Name: Hassaan
City, Country: islamabad, Pakistan

"so far i was reading the extra rich text and the comments.u talked alot about Alevel.90% of which is far as Alevels exams difficulty level is concerned,its all about concept making.i fu got concept u can get straight As.if u dont realize facts u cant even pass the exams. Pakistani exam system is, with due respect,very much screwed.first take a book of bio or chem,u will see them talking more about the history than the heart topic.i mean how does Mendeleves classification can help a modern day student.why should we know about Yaqub Al does Darvin personal Lifes knowledge benifit one.i just mean its all Aevel u wont find a single scientists name.if its there it wont come in the examination.he wont ask u when was Darwin born.while in FCS and matric they screw one by asking such knida questions,at least in the mcqs part.same is the case with entrance tests taken for medical and engineering colleges. This is the reason why i joind Alevels after doing my matric i hardly got 79% marks.and in Alevels mashaALlah i got straight As.its not that easy,at least in Pakistan.its all because Pak Alevels teachers are gaining experince and they are preparing their stunts for the best.And above all tanned skinners are always a step ahead,mashaAllah. i suggest pakistani govt has to introduce reeforms in the educational sector at large scales.first of all discard the books.we should not stick ourselves to a single book.reading multiple books is very effective.just hand over a syllabus copy and leave it up to a student and his teacher.introduce a fair examination system.there are thousands of ways to hold a student back from using unfair far as the cost prices of books are concerned government can easily set up libraries in each school or at least in each city and town and villege with the money it spends on printing books,paying so-called authors.they dont know anything.and those who know somethin they wont just copy another book,they would take years for writing good stuff. At least govt can lauch an E-LIBRARY which can benifit all the students at once and for ever. wish u good luck Pakistan."
Name: Marwat
City, Country: Peshawar, Pakistan

"I totally agree with the writer. I dont really know what is wrong. In my OLevel I was absolutely dumbstruck when I got to know that almost every other student got 6 or more As. Even more surprisingly when I glared at the previous years result I was drenched in disbelief and the whole article seemed apocryphal. As far as the foreign students are concerned. I completely disagree that they are any less genius. Take the SAT test as an example. Scores of U.S students score much more marks than the students from Pakistan. And to be fairly honest, I find it hilarious when somebody brands our students much more brighter than theirs."
Name: UneebAdeel
City, Country: Lahore, Pakistan

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Forman Christian College Professor participated in Journalism and Media Program in U.S.
Lahore: Saleem Abbas from Pakistan Participates in International Journalism Institute 2008 U.S. State Department Program at the University of Florida teaches latest techniques for digital journalism GAINESVILLE, Florida,  Mr. Saleem Abbas, Assistant Professor of Mass Communication Department, Forman Christian College Lahore, Pakistan participated in a six-week Study of the United States Institute on Journalism and Media, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and run by the University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications. The Institute taught journalism and mass communication professors from around the world how to use and teach the latest technologies and techniques being developed for digital journalism.

The institute taught participants about the American press, and gave them hands-on experience in blogging, multimedia and other areas. "New Freedoms in Media: Teaching the Digital Journalism of Tomorrow" took place in Gainesville for four weeks and Miami, Tampa, Washington, D.C., and New York for two weeks.

A combination of hands-on technology instruction and illustrations of its use in covering the American political process helped the professors develop better methods of teaching new journalism techniques at their home institutions. The exchange of ideas by participants enriched the experience and helped to build a worldwide network of journalism and mass communication educators. Participants from 18 different countries in the Study of the U.S. Institutes were among the 40,000 people who took part in exchanges managed by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) each year.

Other ECA exchange programs include the Fulbright Program and the International Visitor Leadership program. Through a range of academic and professional exchanges, the bureau seeks to increase mutual understanding between the United States and other countries. For further information please contact Sylvia M. Chan-Olmsted,, (352) 273-1648.

Emailed by Saleem Abbas,

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