Education, education, education!

Heard an interesting article on the radio this morning about the International Physics Olympiad, which is being held in Vietnam this year. I think it sounds like a nice idea, to hold a competition for something more constructive than running around after a ball, but then I would say that wouldn’t I, since I never had much success at catching the ball, or knowing what to do with it when I did accidentally catch it.

But anyway, the article focussed on the difficulties of the British team. They said that twenty years ago the UK A Level Physics syllabus pretty much matched the international standard that the competition demanded, but that nowadays our A Level students know only half of what they should. That appalled me. We all know about the lowering of our educational standards over the years, and the consistent denials of it by our government (who of course only do these things because they love us, and want what’s best for us).

To be told that our students had to cover about an extra year’s worth of physics (in a space of a week) just depressed me a lot. I know when I did physics, (and that’s a long time ago – not very far off twenty years), we were often told of things that we wouldn’t be learning because they were no longer on the syllabus. That used to disappoint me, that there was knowledge that was being deliberately withheld from us, where previous students got to learn about it. And things have continued to go downhill since then.

But where does it end? If standards aren’t falling around the rest of the world, what will happen to us? Are the British going to become the stupidest people on earth?

Only time will tell.


2 Responses to “Education, education, education!”

  1. Neil Says:

    So when I was studying for my Physics A Level (almost) 20 years ago, I was really an Olympic-standard candidate – it’s got a nice ring to it!

    A few years ago we had a student with us for the summer, who had just finished his A Levels. It was interesting (and actually quite sad) to hear him say that they had been given old O Level papers to practice on, as their teachers believed they were of comparable difficulty to the modern A Level papers.

    Ah, the O Levels, I remember them well … you young whippersnappers are probably too young to remember them (I reckon you’d have been the first or second year of the new-fangled GCSEs), but for those of us who were in the final year to do O Levels, we reckoned the GCSEs were the start of a slippery slope – looks like we were right!

  2. Al Says:

    Just goes to show how good govenments are at lying…

    You need 20% to pass Maths. Tellingly, they don’t publish the maths past papers on the CCEA website, but reading the chief examiner’s report is frightening.

    The new A level ICT specification includes 3 pieces of coursework. One of them can be completed by making a PowerPoint presentation with form fields.

    You can have a look at all the GCSE and A level specs by going to, or

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