Britain 2028: who needs physics and Einstein?

4th July 2008 at 01:00
Mischievous examiners go boldly into a dumbed-down, reality television future

Mischievous examiners go boldly into a dumbed-down, reality television future

An elite science exam asks pupils to imagine Britain's dumbed-down future after the qualification is axed.

The Advanced Extension Award exams, sat alongside A-levels by thousands of high-achievers, are to be abolished in 2009. The Government justified the decision by saying the introduction of the A* grade to A-levels meant AEAs were no longer required.

Examiners have responded by putting a satirical question (see right) into one of the final physics AEA papers, painting a dystopian vision of 2028.

Science is no longer studied beyond primary school, physics is irrelevant, and the secondary curriculum focuses on hospitality studies and media studies. The economy is now buoyed up by tourism and reality television.

The question asks pupils to write a letter arguing the case for science with school governors.

Graeme Littler, head of physics at Harrow International School in Bangkok, believes this vision could well become reality. "Like many teachers within my discipline, I agree with the sentiments contained in the question," he said. "I wonder how the removal of things like AEAs are going to allow the very brightest to prove themselves.

"But science teachers shouldn't jump into retraining for hotel management. There is increasing demand for science specialists around the world."

The Council for the Curriculum Examinations and Assessment, the exam board which set the question, said: "This is a purely hypothetical scenario and is not based on the views of any individual."

Meanwhile, an analysis of more than 1,000 pupils' results has revealed that some pupils will be much more likely to gain the new A* grade at A- level in some subjects than in others.

The study was carried out by Farnborough Sixth Form College in Hampshire, where results have been consistently close to the national averages for England.

English literature and maths results were particularly good, while fewer pupils gained A* grades in foreign languages, history and some sciences.

Students who start A-level courses this September will be the first to gain the A* grade, which will be awarded from 2010.

To do so, they must achieve an A grade overall on the course and a mark of at least 90 per cent in the second year of the qualification.

Farnborough, one of the largest sixth forms in Britain, analysed the results of 1,100 students, many of whom took three A-levels. Overall, 27 per cent of entries were awarded an A grade last year, but just 4 per cent of them would be given an A*; 12 per cent would achieve at least one A* grade.

These figures are largely in line with predictions made by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

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