Grade inflation as a method for restricting social mobility

Another day, another pronouncement of record exam results.  I commented on the A level case last week, so I’ll not bother going into the ridiculous mechanisms of manipulation again.  This time, I’m going to go into the outcome of such a trashing of our examination system.

The core principal here is that it has become more common for people to come out of school with good results.  This is not necessarily indicative of increased ability (except perhaps an improvement in examination technique and training), but it does have a number of significant knock on effects for each cohort.

Primary amongst these is the increased competition for jobs, college and university places.  Qualification grades used to be a useful way of differentiating between candidates. With ever increasing grade inflation the ability of grades to differentiate between people has been significantly reduced.  As a result employers, colleges, and universities are forced to resort to other methods.

Let’s not pretend that social inequality is done away with in the school system – there is a mismatch that enables better-off families to get their kids into schools with better resources, and kids from backgrounds without good educations often struggle to get one themselves through a lack of expectation, or simply a lack of interest.  However, state schools across the country are stocked with passionate and skilled teachers, and if a student from any background is motivated enough and chooses to put the work in, they are generally able to access the education necessary to achieve the grades required to reach their goals.

That sharply contrasts with what is increasingly becoming the dominant system.  Getting excellent exam results is now only half the battle.  The differentiators being used now are what you do outside of school; what are your other interests, what extra curricular stuff have you done, what other efforts have you put in to get relevant experience that demonstrates you are an outstanding candidate.  This side of things is very much more difficult to access if you do not have wealthy or connected parents.  The news earlier this year was blanketed with examples of people getting internships largely through parental contacts.  No matter how good at maths someone from a Peckham council estate might be, what chance do they have of accessing a City internship, compared to Rupert from Eton, who’s a bit slow but whose pater plays golf with the MD of TossPotInvestments Ltd’? Worse than that, many of the very best opportuities are now beginning to be auctioned off for tens of thousands of pounds. It may well be for charity, but ultimately it is causing harm at the same time.

Even ignoring internships, there are a plethora of other opportunites which require a level of parental support or opportunity which many simply do not have access to.  Scouts, Guides, DofE, afterschool clubs – many of these have very restricted presence in deprived areas.  The idea of gap years or volunteer work assumes that they can be afforded.

Grade inflation has not improved student standards.

It has not given us a better workforce

It has not increased the ability of people to access further and higher education.

It has restricted social mobility beyond what even the most arse-minded dipshit could dream of.

With thanks to Christina for planting the seed of an idea.

About Pete Rowley

Earth Scientist with a background in volcanology and sedimentology. Enjoys a good rant, beer, and games. Dislikes reality TV, crowds, and unreasonable people.
This entry was posted in Education, General and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Grade inflation as a method for restricting social mobility

  1. Pingback: The miracle generation « geologygeek

  2. chungatest says:

    If you substitute the term “grading” for “grade inflation” I’ll buy the argument.

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