Rising grades in UK A-Levels, but not so much computing

August 22, 2011 at 9:48 am 4 comments

An article on the BBC news site describes a concern about grade inflation on the A-level exams (similar to the Advanced Placement tests in the US, but more important for college admissions).  But what I found stunning was not the grade inflation, but how Computing was at the absolute bottom of the pack: In terms of tests taken, in terms of A’s given, and in terms of gender disparity. More students are taking A-levels in Music, Physical Education, and German than Computing! If Computing is so critical to society, shouldn’t we be concerned when essentially all the students in a developed country give up on it?

A-level entries and passes have both risen. A jump in passes in 2002 marks the launch of modular AS and A2 courses, which are assessed on coursework and examinations over two years, with less emphasis on the final exam. Some say they are dumbed down, but others argue that the increased pass rate is because the system helps identify weak students at AS level, who are more likely to pull out before taking the full A-level.

via BBC News – A-levels: Rising grades and changing subjects.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bijan Parsia  |  August 22, 2011 at 11:06 am

    the A-level exams (similar to the Advanced Placement tests in the US, but more important for college admissions).

    I don’t think so, though it’s been ages since I did any such exam 🙂 As I recall, AP exams generate college credit (I think I got 4-6 credits for mine). A-Levels do nothing of the sort. The closest I can think of is something I did which I cannot remember the name for, but seem to be similar to the SAT subject exam. We could use such tests to place out of, e.g., an intro French course, but we didn’t get credit for it.

    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  August 22, 2011 at 11:16 am

      I saw the similarity in that both are about measuring secondary-school students’ advanced knowledge in a subject area.

  • 3. Alex McLean  |  August 23, 2011 at 8:50 am

    Thanks for highlighting this, just pointing out that computing is not bottom of the pack for gender disparity though, unless you’re only talking about the few where disparity is in boys’ favour.

  • 4. Quora  |  August 31, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    What is the usual grade at which kids are introduced to computer science in K-12 curriculum in United States?…

    In the U.S., most if not all higher-ed computer science programs are under-subscribed. Not enough people majoring, or at least sticking with it. Many that quit say “Too much math”. I’d also suggest that conceptually the jump to pure coding is too ab…


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