So, England, Scotland, Wales and Norn Iron have monumentally fucked up their guesstimates at exam results. Of course they have. It’s a government thing. They fuck up everything they touch, no matter which of them is in charge.
What to do about it? If I was employing people (I’m not) I would regard the 2020 results as irrelevant and hire on the basis of interviews alone. Which is really how it should be anyway. Someone can get straight As and be an utter dick to work with, someone else might get Ds but be a diligent and effective worker. How clever you are is not an indication of how effective you are.
I have met a guy whose whole life was cleaning. He was the best cleaner ever, fast and very effective. As a conversationalist, oh dear me! All he talked about was cleaning! Set him to work though and he needed no supervision.
I have met ostensibly clever people who genuinely believe that if someone takes up vaping they will inevitably become smokers. I am talking about people with PhDs here. My response that dildos don’t turn lesbians straight and vegan sausages don’t make vegans crave meat was brushed aside. One issue. Smoking. They cannot see it.
If you are a smoker who has tried vaping you know it’s very different. I have seen young kids vaping in Aberdeen and wasn’t bothered at all. It’ll do them far less harm than smoking. If they try to move from fruit flavoured steam to inhaling face bonfires I bet they will go back pretty damn fast.
But I digress. Back to education.
When I was a PhD student, myself and some other school friends met up with one of our number who had left school at 16. He was working on oil exploration ships. He was wondering which car to buy. We were wondering if we could afford another beer. This was in the days before student loans, so it wasn’t about building up debt. We were just mostly skint.
It wasn’t until my 30s that someone pointed out that those who had left school at 16 were far richer than me, most had their own businesses by now, they had been paying into pensions since they were 16 and were set to retire comfortably well before 60. Whereas I was pretty well screwed for the state pension at least. They were also halfway through their mortgages. I hadn’t started. My high-faluting job kept me moving too much to buy a place.
On the plus side, I did get to live in a lot of different places and visit other countries as part of the job. I had an interesting career, learned things and had experiences that were better than having loads of money. I’ve never been that interested in being rich either, if I won a million pounds I wouldn’t really know what to do with it. I don’t want a yacht or a jet or a fancy car. I’d most likely have a massive garden railway though.
So, for me, it was the right choice. If you want to be rich though, get an apprenticeship in a trade. Skilled tradesmen are in short supply since the government decided to send almost everyone to university to study degrees that don’t even qualify them to flip burgers. And put them into a deep debt hole in the process.
Even practical degrees are oversupplied. Forensic science, for example, turns out around eight times as many graduates as there are available jobs. A sensible and practical qualification but the supply of graduates is far too big. As long as universities profit from the course, they’ll run it, even knowing most of their students will have to find a totally different career after being trained in a highly specialised one.
On the other hand, I recall hearing about universities closing chemistry departments because they weren’t profitable. A good basic chemistry degree gives someone a very wide range of options for the future. So does a physics, biochemistry or biology degree. These days it seems they teach ‘science’. I haven’t looked at the courses but I suspect it’s a mashup of the cheap parts from each of the sciences and is very likely far too vague to be of much use.
As for gender studies, does anyone enter that course with the slightest idea of their future career direction? As far as I can see, it trains you to… be a gender studies teacher. How many do the universities need? None, in my view, but it’s a highly profitable course since it has few overheads in terms of equipment.
Going to university nowadays is, in large part, signing up to indoctrination camp. Oh there are still genuinely useful courses out there. A business degree can be useful. There are still real science degrees available. Practical, useful degrees still exist but if you’re going into a specialised field, check the job market before you decide. No sense getting highly – and expensively – trained to do a job nobody wants done.
The exams fiasco didn’t just knock back gender studiers. It has knocked back doctors, nurses, scientists, artists (and there are practical applications for arts, it’s not all sitting in a Paris attic in your vest eating chocolate bread and having tantrums). It has knocked back those going for practical, useful degrees and in at least some cases, people who would have done very well with those degrees.
At the same time, it will have randomly inflated the results for some who might not be able to cope with university. Okay, university isn’t prison, you can drop out if you don’t like it, but you’ve already taken on that debt and wasted at least months when you could have been earning money and building towards your first promotion in whatever job you chose. Neither group will benefit from this mess.
Those are extremes of course and I suspect the extremes are few, but there’s still a mess in between. The worst part is that it seems the algorithm used to guess at the results downgraded those from poor areas and boosted those from rich areas. Rich does not equal intelligent. Look at the Harry formerly known as Prince for example.
What else could have been done? Setting actual exams with all Boris’s silly rules in place would have been possible, but these kids have not been in school since March. Taking an exam six months after your last lesson in the subject would have been a nightmare.
Could they have been individually assessed? Well if they had sat exams, those exams would have been individually marked so it’s really not a stretch to look at the classwork for each pupil. In fact, they had probably done mock exams. Practice ones. Send those in to the indepedent exam markers and assign grades based largely on those. Not ideal but better than a random guess.
Finally, it’s not all Boris’s fault. Education is a devolved issue, like health. His government is only responsible for England in those matters. I note the Scottish schoolkids have been blaming Boris but this one’s not on him.
He has bigger fiascos to run.