Dumbing Down




Dumbing down school exams risks 'catastrophe', warns Royal Society of Chemistry

The dumbing down of school science exams risks creating a "catastrophic" shortage of skilled workers, experts have warned.


Scientists said a lack of rigour in GCSEs - fuelled by a culture of "teaching to the test" - was destroying teenagers' problem-solving and thinking skills.

It came as research suggested standards demanded by schools have dramatically declined in the last 50 years.

In a study, 1,300 of the brightest 16-year-olds were presented with questions from old O-level and GCSE papers.

An average of one-in-seven questions from tests taken in the 60s and 70s were answered correctly. Even pupils awarded elite A* grades in corresponding GCSEs this summer struggled with traditional questions.

The Royal Society of Chemistry said the report provided "first hard evidence of catastrophic slippage in school science standards".


It insisted that Government boasts of rising standards were an "illusion" fuelled by easier tests and better exam preparation.

The RSC has now launched a Downing Street petition calling for GCSEs to be dramatically toughened up amid fears ministers are "failing an entire generation".


Teenagers' learning 'dumbed down' - BBC

This study suggests that pupils are better at faster but less complex answers
Today's 14-year-old pupils are better at quick-fire answers, but much worse at complex questions than teenagers in the 1970s, research suggests.

However, when it came to a higher level of understanding, researchers found that today's pupils were much less successful than in the 1970s. This could be described as a process of "dumbing down", says Professor Shayer, in which the culture of learning favours an instant, superficial way of handling information. This also means that there is less emphasis on thinking more deeply and developing skills that provide a more substantial grasp of ideas and concepts, says Professor Shayer.

In terms of what has caused this shift, he points to the landscape of young lives. "Everything in the past 30 years has speeded up. It's about reacting quickly but at a shallow level," says Professor Shayer.

He says that the culture of text messages and computer games is about speed and instant hits, rather than more profound or detailed ways of handling information.

He suggests that this decline in higher-level thinking means that many more pupils will be limited in their responses to subjects.

Professor Shayer's research is a follow-up to an earlier study in which he compared the performance of present day 11 and 12-year-old pupils with those taking the same test in the 1970s. In that case, Professor Shayer found that despite Sats tests showing that pupils were improving, his research showed that pupils' achievements were lower than those taking the same test in the 1970s. He estimated that these pupils in the first year of secondary school were at the equivalent level of learning of children two years younger in the 1970s.



Trainee teachers' literacy and number tests called for

Lindsay Paterson, professor of educational policy at the University of Edinburgh, said that as things stood, teacher training courses were "simply not intellectually challenging enough".
He said: "We know from research evidence that the numeracy of trainee primary school teachers leaves a great deal to be desired.

"This has to be addressed rather urgently."

Professor Paterson said it was vital that screening was put in place to ensure trainee teachers had competent levels of literacy and numeracy. He added: "At the moment that is not being done adequately or systematically. A lot is left to chance and is left to the education that these students themselves got at school. "That's not satisfactory and a lot more has to be done during the university phase to develop their numeracy and literacy to much higher levels."



Glasgow primary kids can't tell the time.

She had been allocated a primary seven class and the lesson she had been asked to teach was maths. The majority of the class had not advanced much beyond level one — the stage they were meant to reach in early primary. More than half the class were heading for secondary school unable to tell the time.

A sum such as 223 minus 18 flummoxed them. These children were so far behind they had no chance of catching up even if they wanted to, which they didn’t. In the words of WC Sellar: “For every person wanting to teach, there are 30 persons not…



Geography dumbed down

It is a subject rooted in science and statistics, but there are warnings that geography is being dumbed down and marginalised under the controversial new school curriculum. Mike Robinson, chief executive of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, said crucial "scientific" elements of the subject had been "stripped out" of new Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) courses. Mr Robinson also raised concerns that many councils were now using non-specialists to teach geography alongside other subjects such as history and modern studies. Academics under pressure to bump up student grades, Guardian survey shows



Almost half of academics have experienced pressure in the last three years to bump up student grades or stop students failing, according to a Guardian survey of university staff.

 Some 46% of academics said they have been pressurised to mark students’ work generously, according to the survey hosted on the Guardian’s Higher Education Network, while 37% did not believe teaching was valued by their institution. Just over 60% of the 2,019 respondents to the survey were academics, while others worked in a range of positions, including finance and student support.

Many academics said recent reforms, which encourage universities to treat students as consumers and expand their intake, have damaged the quality of education offered to undergraduates. Half of the academics and university staff surveyed described their workload as unmanageable.



Graduate receives £61,000 over 'Mickey Mouse degree' claim


Universities in England are giving too many students top degree grades, the Office for Students (OfS) has warned.

The watchdog's analysis shows the number of graduates being awarded first and upper-second class degrees rose from 67% in 2010-11 to 78% in 2016-17.

The OfS says the rise was "unexplained" and could not be fully put down to other factors, such as background, prior attainment and improved teaching.

Universities UK said universities were already tackling grade inflation.


Numbers attending university


Just over one in 10 (12%) went to university. Sixties students included Charles Clarke, now education secretary but then a maths student at King's College, Cambridge. There were no student loans, fees were paid in full by local education authorities and there was a means-tested annual grant up of to £340 to cover living costs.


One in seven 18-year-olds were in higher education in 1972. That figure fell to one in eight by the end of the decade as university funding was cut and vice-chancellors refused to squeeze the amount spent on each student.



University was never meant to be for everybody. Young people have been sold a lie

A new study has revealed that more than half of British graduates are currently working in jobs that do not require a degree. The research for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development showed that 58.8 per cent of UK graduates have ended up in non-graduate jobs, and around one in 12 of those working in low skilled jobs, such as in coffee shops, bars, call centres and at hospitality events, are now graduates.

Let’s consider some key facts: we have 54 per cent graduates among our young people. Germany has 31 per cent. And which country do you think has the best educated and most highly-skilled workforce? Exactly. This is a ridiculous state of affairs but it isn’t remotely funny. And particularly not for the young people – many from poor families - who have been sold this Big Fat Lie.

They have been told that, if they get a degree – in anything at all – then the world is their oyster. But instead of finding their pearl inside after three years of study, all they are left with is a worthless piece of paper and thousands of pounds of debt amid the grit of those three lost years of earning potential. And half of them can barely string a grammatically correct sentence together.


One-third of 18-year-old university applicants get unconditional offer

Rise in England, Wales and Northern Ireland fuels debate over student recruitment

The use of unconditional offers has ballooned since the government abolished the cap on the number of undergraduates each university in England could recruit, allowing expansion at a time when the number of school leavers was declining.





2011- University entry levels reach 49%

A record high level of 49% of young people in England are likely to enter higher education, according to the latest official estimates.

These figures for 2011-12, before the tuition fee increase, show an increase of more than three percentage points on the previous year.



Degree classifications must change to stop students 'coasting', says minister

With more than 70% of graduates now leaving university with a first or upper second, Jo Johnson says additional grade point average is needed.

The minister said the facts were startling, with a 300% increase in firsts since the 1990s. More than 70% of all graduates now leave university with a first or 2:1, compared with 47% in the 90s and up by 7% in the past five years alone.

'To the extent this expansion in the number of firsts and 2:1s is to do with rising levels of attainment and hard work, I applaud it,' Johnson said.

'But I suspect I am not alone in worrying that less benign forces are at work with the potential to damage the UK higher education brand.'




A-level overhaul to halt "rampant grade inflation"

Sweeping reforms to the standard A-level exams have been signalled by the head of the exam watchdog. Glenys Stacey, the chief executive of Ofqual, said that after more than a decade of 'persistent grade inflation' in exams, which was 'impossible to justify', the value of A-levels and GCSEs have been undermined.

To restore public confidence, wholesale changes were needed to the structure of exams and the culture within exam boards, she warned. It is the regulator first admission that the continuous rise in results has been fuelled in part by the cumulative effect of examiners giving students the benefit of the doubt


Glenys Stacey, chief executive of exam regulator Ofqual rubbished the idea of grade inflation when she first joined the body. But, a year later, she had turned on her heel and joined the ranks of critics blaming easier exams for the year-on-year improvement in results. 



One manifestation of this has been grade inflation. In 2012, the chief executive of British exams regulator Ofqual admitted the value of GCSEs and A-levels had been eroded by years of “persistent grade inflation”. In the US, between the late 60s and 2004, the proportion of first year university students claiming an A average in high school rose from 18% to 48%, despite the fact that SAT scores had actually fallen.



Wikipedia on Dumbing Down

In the late 20th century, the proportion of young people attending university in the UK increased sharply, including many who previously would not have been considered to possess the appropriate scholastic aptitude. In 2003, the UK Minister for Universities, Margaret Hodge, criticised Mickey Mouse degrees as a negative consequence of universities dumbing down their courses to meet "the needs of the market": these are degrees conferred for studies in a field of endeavour "where the content is perhaps not as [intellectually] rigorous as one would expect, and where the degree, itself, may not have huge relevance in the labour market": thus, a university degree of slight intellectual substance, which the student earned by "simply stacking up numbers on Mickey Mouse courses, is not acceptable".[2][3]

A high school physics instructor, Wellington Grey, published an Internet petition in which he said: "I am a physics teacher. Or, at least, I used to be"; and complained that "[Mathematical] calculations &ndash the very soul of physics &ndash are absent from the new General Certificate of Secondary Education."[4] Among the examples of dumbing-down that he provided were: "Question: Why would radio stations broadcast digital signals, rather than analogue signals? Answer: Can be processed by computer/ipod" to "Question: Why must we develop renewable energy sources?" (a political question).

In Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling (1991, 2002), John Taylor Gatto presented speeches and essays, including "The Psychopathic School", his acceptance speech for the 1990 New York City Teacher of the Year award, and "The Seven-Lesson Schoolteacher", his acceptance speech upon being named as the New York State Teacher of the Year for 1991.[5] Gatto speculated:

Was it possible, I had been hired, not to enlarge children's power, but to diminish it? That seemed crazy, on the face of it, but slowly, I began to realize that the bells and confinement, the crazy sequences, the age-segregation, the lack of privacy, the constant surveillance, and all the rest of the national curriculum of schooling were designed exactly as if someone had set out to prevent children from learning how to think, and act, to coax them into addiction and dependent behavior.[5]

In examining the seven lessons of teaching, Gatto concluded that "all of these lessons are prime training for permanent underclasses, people deprived forever of finding the center of their own special genius." That "school is a twelve-year jail sentence, where bad habits are the only curriculum truly learned. I teach school, and win awards doing it. I should know."[5]


 Dumbing down of university grades revealed

The full extent to which British universities have inflated degree grades and are awarding far more firsts and upper seconds than in previous decades have been revealed.

Degree results obtained by The Sunday Telegraph show six out of 10 students were handed either a first or an upper second in 2010, compared with just one in three graduates in 1970.

The results for last summer's graduates, due to be published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency later this month, will increase pressure for reform of the degree grading system in Britain, which an official inquiry has already condemned as "not fit for purpose".

The latest data shows that the criteria for awarding degrees has changed dramatically - despite complaints from many universities that grade inflation at A-level has made it hard for them to select candidates.

The universities awarding the highest proportion of firsts or 2:1s last year were Exeter, where 82 per cent of graduates received the top degrees compared with just 29 per cent in 1970, and St Andrews - Scotland's oldest university, where Prince William met fiancée Kate Middleton - where the figure was also 82 per cent compared with just 25 per cent in 1970.

Imperial College London and Warwick both granted 80 per cent firsts or 2:1s last year, compared with 49 per cent and 39 per cent respectively in 1970.

At Bath University the figure was 76 per cent last year compared with just 35 per cent in 1970.

Prof Alan Smithers, director of Buckingham University's centre for education and employment research, and a long-standing critic of falling standards, said: "There has been the most extraordinary grade inflation



UK universities face grade inflation crackdown

Ministers move to address concerns over growing number of first-class degrees

More than a quarter of graduates (26%) were awarded a first-class degree last year, up from 18% in 2012-13, according to data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency.



Almost half of all students at certain stages of education in England are still not achieving expected standards of success, a report has found. About 43% of children are not leaving primary school having reached adequate levels of reading, writing and maths, according to analysis from the thinktank CentreForum and research body Education DataLab.  

This level is set at achieving a 4b grade – sometimes referred to as a “good” level 4 – or higher in the three key subjects at the end of key stage 2, which usually lasts from the ages of seven to 11. Forty-four per cent of pupils finishing secondary school are not achieving the national standard of five A* to C in GCSEs, the report finds. But the level of attainment has risen over the course of the past decade, the report adds, recommending a higher “new benchmark standard” to which pupils can be held.


"Jacquie Sainsbury left secondary school in Canvey Island, Essex around 30 years ago with one O-level. "Nine years later, she became the head of Brookhill Leys primary school"



Study: Many college students not learning to think critically

NEW YORK  An unprecedented study that followed several thousand undergraduates through four years of college found that large numbers didn't learn the critical thinking, complex reasoning and written communication skills that are widely assumed to be at the core of a college education.

Many of the students graduated without knowing how to sift fact from opinion, make a clear written argument or objectively review conflicting reports of a situation or event, according to New York University sociologist Richard Arum, lead author of the study. The students, for example, couldn't determine the cause of an increase in neighborhood crime or how best to respond without being swayed by emotional testimony and political spin.

Arum, whose book "Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses" (University of Chicago Press) comes out this month, followed 2,322 traditional-age students from the fall of 2005 to the spring of 2009 and examined testing data and student surveys at a broad range of 24 U.S. colleges and universities, from the highly selective to the less selective.

Forty-five percent of students made no significant improvement in their critical thinking, reasoning or writing skills during the first two years of college, according to the study. After four years, 36 percent showed no significant gains in these so-called "higher order" thinking skills.



Freshmen and seniors at about 200 colleges across the U.S. take a little-known test every year to measure how much better they get at learning to think. The results are discouraging.

At more than half of schools, at least a third of seniors were unable to make a cohesive argument, assess the quality of evidence in a document or interpret data in a table, The Wall Street Journal found after reviewing the latest results from dozens of public colleges and universities that gave the exam between 2013 and 2016. (See full results.)

At some of the most prestigious flagship universities, test results indicate the average graduate shows little or no improvement in critical thinking over four years.






Grading up or dumbing down? Why it's all a matter of degree

The fact is that the prosperity of our universities is now directly linked to their exam results, because their Government income is related to their graduate output; and it is that income which pays staff salaries. Income is also subtly linked to the prestige generated by university league tables; for a high place in the league attracts able students. So the pressure to inflate results is built into the system. If inquiries are made, the typical response is that the relentless improvement in exam results is the result of better teaching and brighter students. Very flattering &mdash but improbable.

When school A-Levels started UK-wide in 1965, 8% of candidates' papers were given an &lsquoA'. The current figure is 25%. But, simultaneously, the number of Nobel prizes won by UK scholars has been on a sharp and unbroken downward curve &mdash since the 1970s.


Standards in all Higher exams are falling, claims expert

In mathematics, Ms Ford said a 1970s multiple-choice paper of 40 questions included 19 on topics now taught at Advanced Higher level. She went on to highlight concerns about Higher language exams, which no longer require pupils to translate a passage from English into the language being examined.

"If you have ever wondered why the number of exam passes has risen steadily while, simultaneously, fewer young people seem capable of performing simple arithmetic procedures, or determining the correct location of an apostrophe, here is your answer," she added.



Degree grades arbitrary: Watchdog

'Rotten system'

He does however say that universities are "shooting themselves in the foot" by trying to fit so many different types of students and abilities into the grading system of first and second class degrees.

"The way that degrees are classified is a rotten system," he says. "It just doesn't work any more."

The QAA has published a series of reports that raise questions about the way in which degree standards are assessed in an expanding, globalised university system.

This highlights concerns about inconsistencies in assessment, "weaknesses" in dealing with plagiarism, "continuing difficulties" with degree classification and bad practice in the use of external examiners.

The report on assessment found inconsistencies in marking and the awarding of grades.

There are also concerns about some universities recruiting overseas students in an "unsustainable fashion". The report notes that one university has more than 40% of its intake from overseas.

"There is a belief from some overseas students that if they pay their fees, they will get a degree," Mr Williams said.




Education Act 1992

But has the unified higher education sector been a success? There are concerns that the class of 1992 and higher education as a whole have suffered from the ending of the binary divide. John Marenbon, medieval philosophy fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge, and contributor to think-tank Politeia's publications, said it was a terrible mistake. "Conservative politicians, as much as Labour ones, believed in the nonsense about making vocational education of equal esteem to academic education," he said. A more important question was whether polytechnics should have existed at all, he said. "I think the government should have been concerned to see that there existed high-quality academic education for a very small elite, and that there was good vocational training for those who wanted, closely linked to the workplace."

Politeia has just produced a comparative study of 16-to-19 education in the UK, Europe and the US. "Other countries have very effective apprenticeship systems and we can learn from them," Dr Marenbon said. Criticism of the 1992 act also comes from within new universities. John Pratt, professor of institutional studies at the University of East London, said: "For the former polytechnics, the anxiety to achieve university titles could have been an expensive vanity." He said the end of the divide was "the most monumental example of academic drift in British educational history".

The Committee of Directors of Polytechnics argued in discussions with ministers in 1991 that a unified system would allow polytechnics to offer a "real challenge" to universities. They said it would lead to open competition on price, quality and access that would open up universities. Professor Pratt believes this was wildly optimistic. "Growth has been stifled, the funding system has revealed that, apparently, their teaching costs are not substantially lower than the traditional universities', and they have not sailed as effortlessly through teaching quality assessments as they might have.




As a former political editor of the Sunday Herald, I can testify that the parliamentary committee system has been one of the big disappointments of devolution. Too many MSPs seem incapable of stringing more than a sentence together, far less asking a killer question. You would get a tougher grilling by pupils at a secondary school hustings than you would at some committees.



The government keeps telling us that teenagers are getting brighter and brighter. Their A level results - with many students achieving five at grade A, tell us so. And yet those who took A levels twenty or thirty years ago, know that it would have been impossible for anyone but the elite to get such a portfolio, or even be allowed to sit that number of exams. That hoards are going to university, is a mark of the government's investment in education. What the statistics don't show is that thousands of those students cannot construct a proper sentence; they cannot sit for an hour in a lecture, and some can't even tell you who fought, let alone won, the Second World War!



Stanford researchers find students have trouble judging the credibility of information online

The report, released this week by the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG), shows a dismaying inability by students to reason about information they see on the Internet, the authors said. Students, for example, had a hard time distinguishing advertisements from news articles or identifying where information came from.

"Many people assume that because young people are fluent in social media they are equally perceptive about what they find there," said Professor Sam Wineburg, the lead author of the report and founder of SHEG. "Our work shows the opposite to be true."

The researchers began their work in January 2015, well before the most recent debates over fake news and its influence on the presidential election.



More than 50 years of education reforms ‘have not helped social mobility’

Oxford University study led by influential equalities academic finds many born in the 1970s and 1980s are being forced down the social ladder.

More than half a century of sweeping educational reforms have done little to improve Britain’s social mobility, according to one of the country’s leading experts on equality. Instead, young people from less well-off families entering today’s labour market have far less favourable prospects than their parents or even their grandparents, despite having gained much better qualifications.

Giving the British Academy Sociology Lectureon 15 March, Dr John Goldthorpe, a sociologist at the University of Oxford, whose work on class has proven widely influential, will claim that little has changed in British society since the second world war, largely because more advantaged families are using their economic, cultural, and social advantages to ensure that their children remain at the top of the social class ladder.

The findings offer a sobering corrective to the prevailing view, favoured by successive governments, that improving access to education has been a powerful weapon in promoting social mobility in Britain.

“Successive governments, committed to increasing mobility, have regarded educational policy as the essential means to this end,” Goldthorpe observes. “Yet despite all this expansion and reform, inequalities in relative mobility chances have remained little altered.”




Britons are bloody stupid', says pro-EU lord

'We need an injection of intelligent people, young people from outside who come in and wake us up from time to time,' says Lord Kerr



Don't Panic: The Truth About Population (BBC Documentary)

Professor Hans Rosling presents a spectacular portrait of our rapidly changing world. With seven billion people already on our planet, we often look to the future with dread, but Rosling's message is surprisingly upbeat. Almost unnoticed, we have actually begun to conquer the problems of rapid population growth and extreme poverty.

Across the world, even in countries like Bangladesh, families of just two children are now the norm - meaning that within a few generations, the population explosion will be over. A smaller proportion of people now live in extreme poverty than ever before in human history and the United Nations has set a target of eradicating it altogether within a few decades. In this as-live studio event, Rosling presents a statistical tour-de-force, including his 'ignorance survey', which demonstrates how British university graduates would be outperformed by chimpanzees in a test of knowledge about developing countries.



IQ and Fertility 

In a 1988 study, Retherford and Sewell examined the association between the measured intelligence and fertility of over 9,000 high school graduates in Wisconsin in 1957, and confirmed the inverse relationship between IQ and fertility for both sexes, but much more so for females. If children had, on average, the same IQ as their parents, IQ would decline by .81 points per generation. Taking .71 for the additive heritability of IQ as given by Jinks and Fulker,[14] they calculated a dysgenic decline of .57 

IQ points per generation.[15] Another way of checking the negative relationship between IQ and fertility is to consider the relationship which educational attainment has to fertility, since education is known to be a reasonable proxy for IQ, correlating with IQ at .55;[16] in a 1999 study examining the relationship between IQ and education in a large national sample, David Rowe and others found not only that achieved education had a high heritability (.68) and that half of the variance in education was explained by an underlying genetic component shared by IQ,education, and SES.[17] 

One study investigating fertility and education carried out in 1991 found that high school dropouts in America had the most children (2.5 on average), with high school graduates having fewer children, and college graduates having the fewest children (1.56 on average).[18]



UCL staff morale at all-time low because of management, poll finds

Exclusive: Survey of academics suggests many feel University College London is ‘being run as a business, not a university’



Guardian Forum

Case in point: 2009. Tutoring privately an overseas student on BA History course in London. He turns up with an "essay" that is actually two pages of incoherent notes that wouldn't get him through an 11 plus. Shocked, I tell him he will have difficulty making it through his first year. He responds that he is on his second year. In desperation I telephone his tutor to see what is going on. At first he doesn't want to talk but I manage to convince him that I am genuinely interested in what is happening here.

He responded, "What am I meant to do? I don't even interview potential students to this so called university. They are processed by the accounts department and as long as they can pay £10,000 a year they are accepted. Then I am expected to pass them in exams they simply cannot be expected to sit let alone take. I am told that if I don't pass them then students will fail and I will have no class and be made redundant. I have a wife, two kids and a mortgage, if I fail these people it becomes part of my record that I am a poor lecturer. I am completely trapped."


The worst thing the boomers did was to turn the latest generations into literally the dumbest human beings in history. Full blown Thatcherites, too stupid to understand or care about anything apart from money. Such a f* shame they don't have any.