If Gove axes AS-levels, equality will feel the blow

Franklyn Addo, a second year university student, believes modular courses and retakes help students in struggling schools bridge the gap between GCSE and A-level. This is from the Guardian…

The education secretary, Michael Gove, wants to make AS-level qualifications non-contributory to a final A-level grades and instead impose one definitive set of exams after two years of study. Gove argues this will make A-levels richer in content, ensuring students are learning information that they will retain, rather than memorising content solely for exams. Quite rightly, this has caused widespread concern from students and teachers.

I’m in my second year of study at university and I found the existing A-level system to be reasonable. I can imagine there would have been a huge pressure if my entire A-level grade and future in education relied on one set of exams.

Gove is misguided in his assertion that the current system encourages students to memorise information that they forget after exams; he also fails to acknowledge that modules are interlinked, with A-levels building on knowledge gained at AS-level. The consensus among my fellow students and teachers is that breaking down the A-level process into smaller, more manageable segments through modular study allows individuals to display their full potential. It is disconcerting that politicians are often detached from the issues they address and fail in acknowledging the opinions of those who are directly affected by policies.

The removal of modular A-levels will ultimately reduce fairness within the education system by making access to retakes more difficult. While I never had to retake any A-level modules myself, I can see their benefits.

Many find the gap between GCSE and A-level alarming, especially people like me from struggling schools in deprived areas. Such students often have greater difficulty adapting to the practices required to excel at A-level. The axing of AS-levels and retakes is not conducive to equality of opportunity, as students who may have initial difficulty will not able to try again.

Many of my peers who have been accepted into excellent universities made use of the retake option – and might not have been able to gain entry otherwise. Since 2002, when the AS/A2 modular system was implemented, A-level pass rates jumped from about 70% to more than 90%.

Axing retakes will cause those from more academic families with higher cultural capital – and those who have had the privilege of going to better schools – to continue achieving highly, while many underprivileged students will continue to be under-represented at elite universities. The Race for Opportunity report found that 14.1% of the total students at 20 Russell group universities were ethnic minorities. In an economic climate in which the demand for good jobs already exceeds availability, Gove’s policy looks set to deter many from pursuing higher education.

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