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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

UK blames lenient pandemic grading for soaring college dropout rate

Earning A-levels was easier for British students during the pandemic. Passing college classes is harder. Worried by a 30 percent college dropout rate, the U.K. will return to tougher pre-pandemic grading, reports WION's Abhinav Singh.

Photo: ICSA

Fewer A grades will be awarded this year, warned Gillian Keegan, the education secretary. “It is vital that qualifications hold value so that universities and employers understand the distinction between grades when recruiting, and pupils get the opportunities they deserve."

For two years, teachers graded their own students on A-level exams. In one private school, "the proportion of A* results rose from 33.8 per cent in 2019 to 90.2 per cent in 2021," writes Singh.

In the U.S., first-year college dropout rates are 17.6 percent at public four-year institutions and 19.5 percent and non-profit, private four-year colleges. Open-admissions schools, such as for-profit colleges and community colleges have much higher failure rates.

Sixty-eight percent of U.S. students complete a bachelor's degree in six years at public colleges and universities, 78 percent at private, nonprofit institutions.

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Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
Aug 16, 2023

A levels are externally assessed for third-party certification, which is universally held as more credible than the internally assessed high school diplomas that American high schools hand out, which only certify students via second-party (teacher) certification; therefore the UK's forced experiment with American-style grading has been judged a failure, one they will quickly revert from, while American educational institutions are moving in the opposite direction, cutting testing and thereby lowering the value of their inflated credentials, while simultaneously raising their prices, a procedure whose qualification devaluation will inevitably lead to a shrinking of the American higher education market, which should be beneficial, if Americans are offered good vocational & professional alternatives.

Aug 16, 2023
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All true, sadly.

I think higher ed is going to be transformed into online instruction for all mundane, general academic courses (but perhaps better taught, since the online course can hunt for the best lecturers available) combined with in-person instruction only for hands-on, highly interactive (eg, seminar courses), math-intensive, or very specific (ie, not available otherwise) courses. Students will attend an accredited online university for credits good towards many degrees from many institutions. Over time, these online universities will dwindle until there are only a few competitors, probably from prestigious schools. Once the student has all the general credits they need, they will attend in person only for courses that need to be in person.

Whatsamatta U can then offer…

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