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A-levels to get harder

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by pencho, Apr 2, 2012.

  1. pencho

    pencho New commenter

    Article on BBC website. Gove wants Russell Group to steer A-levels from now on. What is the likely implication for maths and how does it fit with Gove wanting more students to do A level Maths.
  2. pencho

    pencho New commenter

    Article on BBC website. Gove wants Russell Group to steer A-levels from now on. What is the likely implication for maths and how does it fit with Gove wanting more students to do A level Maths.
  3. DM

    DM New commenter

    Gove wants more students to study maths post 16 but this does not necessarily mean A Level maths. I think we need to wait for the Ofqual documents to be published - there are two, a UK report and an international comparison.
  4. Karvol

    Karvol Occasional commenter

    IB exam syllabi are decided by a committee of teachers and university academics. The exams are actually written by teachers in IB schools but overseen by university academics.
    To stop any form of cheating, a teacher cannot write the exam for the timezone that they are teaching in and each timezone has a completely separate exam writing team operating there.
  5. auntiemaisie

    auntiemaisie New commenter

    For students to be successful at A-level, they must have good foundations of algebra and numeracy when they start - the change is needed at GCSE level. Making GCSE more rigorous would help those of us teaching A-level to stand a better chance of getting students through the current syllabus.
  6. DM

    DM New commenter

    Wendy Piatt (Director General of the Russell Group) has said on various radio stations this morning that the DfE has not even spoken to them about this proposal. Despite this, she seems to be embracing the opportunity to get involved saying she will get rid of modules and reduce the number of resits (I can't really see how you can have a resit system with linear courses anyway unless you retake the whole qualification the following year).
    On Newsnight she said "We do have some problems with specific subjects like maths in that some of the modules are just not challenging enough to equip students not only to go on to a maths degree but also to go on to a degree in engineering and physics." Newsnight also hinted that calculus would return to Physics A Level.
  7. lunarita

    lunarita Lead commenter

    I'm all for a stronger A-level, both in maths and physics.
    But the authorities have to remember that back in the days when exams were more taxing, it was acknowledged that a far smaller % of students wojuld study A-level, would pass A-level and would go on to study at University.
    The 50% to university 'policy' might have to be revised.
  8. davidmu

    davidmu Occasional commenter

    I am in favour of a return to linear examinations only. In the sixties there were THREE 2 and a half hr. papers for single Mathematics and TWO 3hr papers for the double Maths option with the Cambridge board. These qualifications achieved were really something worthwhile. Far too many now achieve a pass at A level but are totally incapable of completing a degree course in a mathematical based subject.
  9. If the A-levels are made harder (by whatever means), then, unless there is a comparative hardening (fnarr fnarr) of the GCSE exams, we will get to the position where only an A* at GCSE will be a sufficient indication of ability to start an A-level course. I can see VIth form College teachrs going pale at the thought.
    Perhaps, in the interim between new GCSE specs, new NC content, new A-levels etc, there will need to be a time where A-levels become three year courses, the first of which consists of some FSMQs or the AQA Further Maths GCSE. Otherwise, pass rates will drop below 50% and success rates will be even more dire.
    Plus, of the Russell Group get to choose the content, won't some other UNiversities end up closing depts due to lack of students with any A-level qualifiactions?
    cyolba, pitying the poor A-level teachers :)
  10. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    I pity the kids.

    If A levels are harder from, say, 2014, then will it really be the case that future employers will look at future candidates and really say that someone with a 2015 C is as good as someone else with a 2013 A*?

    Universities might be that sophisticated (frankly I doubt it), but universities aren't the only audience.
  11. Maths_Mike

    Maths_Mike New commenter

    Exams to get harder and pass rates to drop - cant see it myself, although at A Level A* to C is not so widely reported so maybe they can get away with it.
    I would be happy to abandon modular options as it is too easy and prevents examiners and teachers to an extent linking the different areas of the curriculum.
    However I hope we learn the lessons of curriculum 2000 - the disiaster that was - and dont expect the students to be half way through the course by the end of year 12. I.e one linear A/S paper at the end of year 12 followed by 1 at the end of 13 would be a very dangerous option in my opinion.
    As I cant myself see A/S levels being dropped then I find it difficult to see the end of modualr either.
  12. Sure they will.
    I see it all the time with my own results:
    ".... you got double maths in 1987, an A and a C. Sorry, that doesn't match up to our other candidate with an A STAR in Media Studies . . . .thanks, anyway"
  13. In his letter, Gove refers to "standards...constrained artificially as a result of any concept of comparability between subjects"
    In the late 80s, steps were taken to artificially constrain the difficulty of maths A level because it was seen as so much harder than other subjects.
    In my own view, this has been sustained to the shockingly low levels of understanding required to complete most of the modules within the A Level we see today (regardless of board).
    Vorderman's report in the summer gave a comparative difficulty between subjects, and maths is still perceived as the most difficult.
    I tried the following exercise with the core module papers:
    Take 6 past (unseen) papers from each of C1, C2, C3 and C4.
    How long does it take to complete each batch of 6? (Allow yourself a couple of errors across all 6 papers)
    My times: 84mins, 114mins, 144mins, 168mins.
  14. Has anyone asked whether it's the University teaching that's become worse? Perhaps it was never that good!

    Consider the question: "Who was your best teacher?" or perhaps "Who did you learn the most from?" I would be interested to know if anyone answers either question with a University Lecturer.

    Universities seem to be the last stronghold of poor teaching - their focus is on their research, not on the Undergraduates.

    It's time there was a financial incentive for Universities to hire teaching only staff rather than researchers who resent being made to teach through their contracts.
  15. Geoff Thomas

    Geoff Thomas Star commenter

    I am old enough to remember when universities did set the A-levels, and the question was "What do universities include in the A-level syllabus?"

    The answer was "anything they would prefer somebody else to teach".

    I think too many people have lost sight of the fact that, back then, A-levels were taken by comparatively few young people and were designed to be predictors of ability at HE, not as measures of attainment.

    Given that we are now in a system in which most pupils go on to HE of one form or another, maybe we should go back to the predictor model.
  16. 'Has anyone asked whether it's the University teaching that's become worse? Perhaps it was never that good! Consider the question: "Who was your best teacher?" or perhaps "Who did you learn the most from?" '
    Anecdotally, there is some evidence for the claim that the quality of University teaching has declined. But then I thought, it is so hard to get a university maths post these days that one is likely to be so clever that one has never encountered students whose knowledge and ability is so fundamentally different from one's own. More training and less emphasis on research might help, but that won't happen.
    I was lucky to go through university in the middle sixties, and I can definitely assert that my best teachers were my university teachers. There was an infectious enthusiasm for even the most mundane of subjects that seems lacking now. I had good school teachers, but nothing compared to my university teachers.
  17. pencho

    pencho New commenter

    I think Universities need to get their own house in order before they complain about A-level teaching
    - I think I learn very little for my maths degree (except how to rememeber proofs)
    - Exam paper questions were exactly the same from one year to next, you just had to remember the answers.
    - The quality of teaching was generally poor (or though we did have som excellent lecturers)
    - Lecturers I feel were on a different level to the majority of students who were on the course. Only a few could complete the in between steps in their proofs.
    - How many maths graduates and maths courses were available in the supposed golden era that we want to get back, compared to now.
    It seems to that these academics (who we never seem to meet ourselves) just complain and complain.

  18. pencho

    pencho New commenter

    Forgot to say exams were all modular too
  19. The danger is we head back to the Curriculum 2000 fiasco.

    Failure rate (U grade) at the end of Year 12 was around 30%.

    Progression from Year 12 into Year 13 saw half of students drop Maths as it was just too hard compared to other subjects. Unless your degree course insists on maths why would you continue with it when it was so much easier to clock up your UCAS points in other subjects?

    Numbers starting A level maths courses went through the floor meaning that students who may have, aged 16, not thought about a maths (or related) degree but who previously would have fallen for the wonder of maths post-GCSE never got the chance to find that out.

    If it's accepted that A levels in different subjects can have different difficulties then this must be reflected in UCAS points otherwise A level Maths will become a subject that is only taken by those wanting to go into a maths (or related) degree / employment.

    Basically Maths will be someone's first A level choice or not on their option forms at all!
  20. May be worth looking at

    The section fo Prof Smith's report that references the Curriculum 2000 debacle in Maths

    http://www.mathsinquiry.org.uk/report/chapter-4.html 4.33 onwards

    The 2007 QCA review after the changes to the Curriculum 2000 model (moving from P1-33 with 3 optional units to C1-4 with 2 optional units - effectively reducing content by 17%)


    The interim report


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