No University Should Have Their Own Entrance TestA Levels, In The News, Media Watch, Private Schools Monday, February 7th, 2011
…because it discriminates against those without the cultural, social or economic resources to benefit from them i.e .those from non-fee paying schools.
Speaking in The Times, Dr. Helen Wright, the president of the Girls Association of independent private schools for rich kids, believes that “all universities should have entrance tests rather than offer places based on A-level grades as the exams were not good enough to be both the basis of selecting students for universities and a measurement of achievement at school.”
She goes onto say that, “I’m not sure they have ever been good enough for universities and it is quite right for universities to be specific about certain skills that they require and to have their own tests as a result.”
If, as Dr. Wright so clearly desires, you want rich kids to continue to be disproportionally represented at more presigious universities then devising specific entrance exams is the perfect way to do it. Thus even if not consciously a policy of the university, she advocates an entrance examination as another obstacle to education successfuly fulfilling its role as a means of making UK society more equal and more inclusive.
One anonymous exam for all is fair. More exams for the select few who manage to get that far clearly isn’t. This is the case in other countries where examinations have a much longer history, too.
In China, for example, the GAOKAO exam is sat equally and anonymously by all students on the same day, and at the same time, to root out corruption and to be as fair as possible to one year’s cohort after another.
Dr. Wright’s crazy alternative, where the identity of candidates is known in advance, is ripe for abuse.
Imagine a university knowing that one of the candidates is the son of Lord Loadsamoney. They’re hardly going to turn him/her down given the importance of private funding. And if just like David Milliband you mess your A Levels up, well don’t worry because daddy is famous and having his son on the books won’t look bad at all.
No, this isn’t a fair or just solution to a pretend problem. The real problem – well one of them anyway – is that people like Wright, Seldon and Gove who are concerned with maintaining the advantage of private education are given too much airtime and press coverage and hence wield an unhealthy influence over state education – something moreover they have no professional experience of.
In contrast, we should be hearing from state educators about what they think should be done to improve the university entrance examinations system.
We don’t care what Wright, Seldon or Gove think.
We do care however what the teachers of local state schools think.
If only the UK media would let us hear them more instead of lazily repeating the press releases of partisan and self-interested organisations like the GSA.