Pictures of beautiful young girls opening an envelope and shrieking for joy. A negative pregnancy test at seventeen? No. Its A-Level results day and it has turned into an iconic yet predictable display of ignorance from all sides. Daily Telegraph columnists complain of “dumbing down” which leads to whichever Minister is in charge of Education to come out and say that students are working “harder and better” with every passing year.
Then the Conservatives counter by offering some new way to stop this abomination happening. The leader of the opposition’s advisers must tell their leader “Quick Dave, too many people who think hummus is a Mediterranean country are going to Uni. Do something before my privately educated daughter has to clamber over state school plebs for a place at Oxbridge”. They pledge to use other examinations like the International Baccalaureate or an IGCSE or a roulette wheel of grades and just one spin to decide your fate.
Where does this leave us, the students caught in the middle? Well, as someone just one day away from collecting my results it leaves me feeling a bit useless, wondering what the past two years of study actually means and why I’m trying to achieve top grades if my endeavours are going to be dismissed as being easier than ever.
Aren’t Conservatives the ones who say we should buckle down, put our noses to the grind and hammer out A-grade answers instead of going to all-night raves and having unprotected sex with strangers before posting pictures of the encounter on Facebook? So when people like me actually do work for their exams, get our grades and then get slagged off for being more dim-witted than any previous generation, it seems to be a bit of a letdown to say the least.
Teachers, student unions and other leftist, Guardian-reader types say that students are getting cleverer. Some idiots use the evidence that A-level Maths students can’t complete tests from 50 years ago as proof that students are incompetent.
But as teaching evolves, some things continue to be taught, some don’t. We wouldn’t say that pupils from the 17th Century are smarter than modern students because they think the world is flat. However, overall, there is a feeling that good grades are handed out a little too readily.
The question is what should be done to even things up. Unfortunately, I haven’t got a bloody clue. I’m glad that people from my college are getting more top grades than ever, but that means that it becomes less prestigious to those people who do actually work their socks off. It isn’t a black and white issue but this examination-knocking does no one any favours.
Teachers become less motivated, students have to suffer the igmony of being branded illiterate brainless slobs by a government and government-in-waiting which has exclusively been educated for free, all the way to their plush second homes and Ministerial Allowances. This discrepancy in policy and attitude isn’t enough for the student-bashers who just seem to enjoy sneering at people younger and better looking than them.
Unbelievably, students have been given a bit of sympathy following the collapse in the job markets, with one million young people being described as “NEET”; Not in Education, Employment or Training. This had me in stitches when Cameron mentioned it recently (“We have to do all we can to make sure young people in this country aren’t NEET”). Come on Dave, you’re a Bullingdon Club snob! If a student walked past your house that wasn’t neat, wearing rags and a beanie hat at a jaunty angle, you’d have them shot by your butler!
The question is, will I get good enough grades to go to University? I can’t rely on writing for a living, something I have made no money from whatsoever. And with the newspaper industry going down the swanny, it probably isn’t the best time to enter journalism. Yet the latest UCAS survey has discovered record numbers applying for the ill-fated subject which is like attending a First Aid Training Course on the Titanic.
Whatever happens will happen. I may end up living out of bins like those mad people you see on Panorama, who eat food tossed into refuse collection because they are just out of date. I could join a gang, get a cool nickname and start my criminal record, working my way up to a medium-term jail sentence for GBH.
Or, just perhaps, things might be absolutely fine and I will be grinning from ear to ear tomorrow morning. One thing is certain; no Daily Telegraph photographer will be taking snaps of me, whatever results I get. I’m neither blonde nor photogenic.