Congratulations to this year's Grecians and their new Headmaster

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Re: Congratulations to this year's Grecians and their new Headmaster

Post by graham » Sun Sep 09, 2018 10:37 pm

A consistent, national grading scheme that is a true indicator of knowledge and ability can never be accomplished. Here in the States, we have a series of standardized tests that are used as guides for entry into University at undergraduate and graduate levels, as well as medical, law, and business schools (all post-grad here) among others. The problem - standardized tests are good predictors of socio-economic status but not academic ability. It's straightforward to get good scores on these tests if you take a prep course that teaches you how to chose the right answer but most can't afford these. We're trying move away from them at my institution now, at least at graduate level.

What I will say is that I am perplexed by the UK undergrad admissions process. I found my UCAS letters while rummaging though my Mom's loft on my last visit to the UK and it's bizarre to recall that I could only apply to 6 universities and had to pick two offers before getting my grades and junk the rest. Perhaps the process would become more selective if the applicants made choices post-grades, but the whole thing seems very antiquated to me and not helpful to students in general.

Not as antiquated as taking only 3 A-levels, mind you. It makes me mad that we were forced to specialize at such a young age. I was encouraged not to take A-level mathematics, advice I duly took, because I only got a B at GCSE. This was absolutely the worst advice I could have been offered and it made my academic trajectory much more challenging. I understand that the slow and broad approach taken here in the US is looked down on a bit in the UK, but I've got to say, having experienced both, that the system here keeps students options open for much, much longer. That's especially important for first generation University attending students who have less understanding of what they might need to do to get where they want to go.

* rant over
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Re: Congratulations to this year's Grecians and their new Headmaster

Post by Oliver » Mon Sep 10, 2018 9:04 am

rockfreak wrote:
Sun Sep 09, 2018 8:34 pm
Is there anywhere else in developed Europe where all this entry gymnastics cobblers exists? People seem to deal with secondary and tertiary education and get their uni places in a reasonably straightforward manner. And do they do any worse than us as a country? Perhaps someone with personal knowledge of western Europe will say I'm wrong.
Western Europe’s methods for university entry are not uniform. French universities (where I taught medicine for a couple years some decades ago) have another system, which is allegedly more democratic, but can waste time.

In essence anyone with the appropriate “Bac” (high school leaving certificate) can apply to any university to study any subject and is accepted. This naturally means that the most sought after courses (medicine, law, etc) are vastly oversubscribed in the first year. These, unlike the USA but like the UK, are undergraduate degrees usually started after leaving high school. In my French university about 400-500 students studied the first year medical course. (This large number causes problems; eg practical lab work is minimal, since it is too costly for all to do many practicals. So the first year course is highly theoretical and at a more advanced level than in the UK.) About 150 graduating doctors were required from each year’s intake, hence the solution was simple (and democratic?). Only the top 20-30% of those who sat the first year examination could continue in medicine. Few other exams have such a high failure rate. Medical students were allowed to take the first year examination only twice and two failures meant that one could no longer study medicine. Most of those who then had to change courses opted for a science degree and were given credit for their first year medical studies if their marks were of an appropriate level. Of course there are other disadvantages in addition to those mentioned. As in Eastern Asia, where there is a large industry of optional private tuition for those in high school and undergoing undergraduate courses, the French first year medical students, who can afford such courses may get an advantage over poorer students. But the authorities are well aware of this and the examination questions are intended to reduce this potential advantage.

I understand all this is unique to France and those nations using the French educational system – usually their former colonies. It arose in effect from the Napoleonic era (the French legal system is today based on the Code Napoleon) when Napoleon democratised very many aspects of French social and civil secular life, even though he later succumbed to gross nepotism and some other bad practices. But is this French system an improvement on ours?

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Re: Congratulations to this year's Grecians and their new Headmaster

Post by scrub » Mon Sep 10, 2018 11:30 am

graham wrote:
Sun Sep 09, 2018 10:37 pm
It makes me mad that we were forced to specialize at such a young age.
Agreed, although at the time I didn't think much of it and it wasn't till I migrated to Australia and went to uni that I properly noticed it. A large chunk of my 1st year was spent rehashing A-level knowledge so I just fell into cruise control until exam time.

The Aus system is flexible enough that if you don't study something at high school you can still do it during your undergrad if you pass the bridging courses. It's not easy and not many people do it, but the option is there (or was when I went through). If you want to go into postgrad study, you don't need to start really specialising till the end of undergrad. Obviously, common sense should be applied here, you can't really expect to start a PhD in quantum mechanics straight after undergrad if your major is comparative theology. You'll need to find an extremely sympathetic supervisor and do a lot of qualifying work.

Giving up/almost failing English (by CH's standards) after GCSE left a noticeable hole in my education that I've worked hard to try and fill. A broader secondary education probably would have helped, or at least made the hole a little shallower.
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