Sunday, October 24, 2010

Employers say exam system doesn't prepare students for work

Students concentrate during an A level exam
UNITED KINGDOM: One in four employers believe the national examinations system is not doing a good job and should be reformed, according to a study.
They lack confidence in the reliability of GCSEs and A-levels and are increasingly bringing in their own tests to measure applicants' ability.
The findings come as this year's A-level results saw the number of pupils gaining straight As fall for the first time in record following the introduction of more challenging questions.
An analysis of this summer's results showed a surprise drop in the number of young people achieving three or more A* or A grade passes.
Only 12.4 per cent received at least three top grade passes compared with 12.7 per cent last year.
This came after an overhaul of A-levels by the Labour Government in a move designed to introduce tougher, essay-style questions in exams and to allow students to study fewer modules in more depth.
Exams watchdog Ofqual surveyed 210 employers, 314 A-level teachers and 358 students to gain their opinions about exam reliability.
It found that 23 per cent of employers think the exam system is not up to scratch and needs to be reformed, 48 per cent believed it was doing a good job but wanted improvement and only 18 per cent had no reservations.
Just 14 per cent of employers admit to turning to candidates' exam results when filling jobs. However 65 per cent 'sometimes' use their own tests to assess their skills.
Overall, 61 per cent of employers say they are not confident in the exams system, along with six in ten students (58 per cent) and nearly four in ten (38 per cent) teachers.
The report said: 'It would be expected that teachers would be more confident in the examinations system than students and employers as they use the system more than students and employers and are more familiar with the system.'
About 89 per cent of teachers felt their pupils got the grades they deserved, compared to 66 per cent of employers. Only 17 per cent of students believed they got the correct grades.
The survey also shows that significant numbers of those questioned believe that differing proportions of candidates are getting the wrong grade at GCSE, depending on the subject.
Maths and science were perceived to have fewer 'grade misclassifications' than English, where over a third of employers thought at least 30 per cent of candidates had unreflective grades in this subject.
Some 22 per cent of employers believed that more than half of pupils had the wrong grade in English.
The publication of the report comes as Ofqual has set out details of its inquiry into the incomplete marking of Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA) GCSE, AS-level and A-level papers this summer.
This resulted in 615 pupils across the country receiving lower grades than they should have.
The regulator will identify 'precisely what went wrong' with initial findings expected by mid-December.