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GCSE physics scandal shakes mailbag

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Letters A secondary school physics teacher sent an open letter to the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) and the AQA exam board. He accused the board of putting forward a paper which contained questions that were vague, stupid, insultingly easy, political, and non-scientific. Your thoughts:

In two years time, this generation will be applying to university. Initially, they will be turned down, in favour of foreign and privately educated students who have actually been educated rather than baby-sitted for the previous twelve years. Then the politicians will step in, ranting about "access" and "elitism", and force universities to accept these students and dumb down their courses accordingly. Three years after *that*, a BSc from a British university will be worth less than a "paid-for" degree from some creationist establishment in the US.

Funny thing is, if I were to withhold my children from school and subject them to this kind of rubbish at home, I'd be prosecuted. 'Tis a shame that the various arms of government in this country aren't obliged to obey the same laws as the rest of us. (But I ranted about *that* in a reply earlier today to another Reg article. Perhaps I need to go home and calm down.)

Ken


You know, I had wondered what the Post-Modernist "scholars" had been up to lately. They've been flying largely under the media radar since Alan Sokal's Hoax famously lampooned their view that all science is socially constructed, and their inability to distinguish between intellectual standards and political barricades.

They landed at the AQA board, then. I'm sure they're very happy there. Thanks for the "Where Are They Now" moment.

Carlo


It might be entertaining to post a question El-Reg. This was in common circulation in the late 70's / early 80's. Ask people to post the answer, their age and whether or not they used a calculator. (I also have a pretty diagram...)

Question: A mineshaft is 22m deep. The cage, which holds ten persons, is hoisted over a headstock on a cable that is wound onto a motorized drum with a diameter of 0.7m. The drum rotates at a speed of 10 rpm. Assume that the cage travels up and down at the same speed, whether laden or light and that initial acceleration and deceleration of the cage have no effect on the overall speed of the cage. Also assume that it takes 10 seconds to load/unload the cage. If the cage is initially at the top of the shaft, how long would it take to evacuate 21 persons from the mine ?

John

Easy: you get Scotty to beam them out. Tch...


I remember many years ago someone had etched "Sociology degree - please take one" next to the toilet roll at the Physics department in Bristol University. Perhaps they should update this to include Physics GCSE?

I note that sex education was missing from the list of gender awareness, anti-racism etc from the Physics questions. So how about this?

"After practicing safe sex on top of a skyscraper, a couple began to argue about how tall the building was. Given that they had a spare condom, measuring tape and a pressure meter; devise an experiment to measure the height of the building."

Anon


I was chatting to the head of the maths from my old school in the pub last year. It was end of term and she was coming up with a few quizzes for the 5th year students (or whatever year they call them these days, the 15/16yos about to take what I would have called an 'O' level).

I threw a couple of ideas her way, only to have them knocked back as they don't teach the kids that anymore. That included bases other than 10 and matrices, both of which I had in my good old fashioned 'O' level lessons in the late 80s.

And to think, all this time I thought the premium rate quizzes we see at the end of almost every TV show were pitifully easy, when all along I've just been over educated.

Steve


"The evidence we have is that the mark distributions for these new papers are similar to those for the previous papers so candidates appear to find them equally as accessible e.g. grade boundaries are at similar percentages."

They'd probably get the same results if they simply gave marks for height or weight or writing speed or any number of attributes completely unrelated to physics. I assume they know this (unless their statistics education has been to their own syllabus) and thus they are intentionally setting out to deceive.

We have come to expect deception and spin from politicians, but to find it infecting everyday parts of life is deeply depressing.

Ken

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