The A Level mark machines

"‘You’re just filling our minds with stuff that won’t get any marks!’” - is what Imogen Stubbs' children said to her and her husband, Trevor Nunn, when they attempted to give them other ways of looking at the texts she was studying for English. This is not just confined to the subjective Arts: my son is doing Chemistry, Biology and Physics.

"No," he said, when I said "ooh, you could look at this," when testing him. "I have to do what will get me marks and that won't." So, we turned away from investigating Dutch Elm disease back into the revision texts and the all-important margin with the mark scheme. I hope the A level exams have not turned my bright, maverick son, and all those other children with a thirst for just knowing stuff into mark machines. The tension they are put through at this time is anyway high: you cannot turn on the radio, television or open a paper without the words "A Level" and "miss out" leaping out at you. It does make me sad that there is such a huge pressure on them to succeed, coupled with what my daughter calls "sucking the fun out of everything." How tragic not to get in to your university of choice, and to have spent 2 years of unrelenting work turning away from what might interest you because it doesn't happen to attract any marks.

In the dim and distant past when I did my A levels, I got marks for trotting off down interesting alleys: it was called "reading around the subject" and "broadening your outlook." I got marks (at school at any rate) for being witty, and managed to pass my English language O level at A with a short story that was beyond weird. I think it involved bones.


Lucille said…
I came to your fascinating blog via a search for Edith Reynolds horses and read on. I can only concur with your feelings about the A-level mark machine. My son has just passed through it...
Jane Badger said…
I hope your son did all right at the end of it all! Education now seems to be a relentless slog: whatever your opinion on the difficulty or otherwise of the exams, the fact remains there is an enormous amount of work to be done to pass.

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