O-levels should be the standard for secondary education

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From: Professor JA Double, Carlinghow Hill, Upper Batley, West Yorkshire.

LIKE the overwhelming number of your readers, 91 per cent, who voted in last Friday’s Question of the Day, I fully support the reintroduction of O-levels.

Furthermore, I fully endorse the views as facts presented by Nick Seaton, “Gove must not fail our young people over O-levels” (Yorkshire Post, June 22).

His views largely reflect my own experience in over 35 years of teaching and examining post-graduate students in cancer research.

There is no doubt in my mind that such students in the 1970s were far more literate and numerate and had a real understanding of basic science.

In more recent times, even graduates from the best universities often struggled to write up their results in a clear, concise and comprehensive manner.

While I enjoyed doing what I could to put this right, I felt that they had been badly let down by a “dumbed-down” secondary education system and unless this is rectified the UK’s place in the international league tables will continue to fall.

In this context it is not surprising that “foreign” competitors have continued to use O-levels to raise standards, a fact often emphasised to me, when for seven years I was editor of an international cancer journal.

Like Nick Seaton, I sincerely hope that Michael Gove and his Ministers will stick to the decision to press ahead with this reform, also like Nick Seaton I do not entirely agree with all of Michael Gove’s ideas, and while not mentioned in his article, I cannot see any justification in UK pupils learning a foreign language until they are fully competent in English.

From: David Quarrie, Lynden Way, Holgate, York.

IT is not very often that I agree with anything that the coalition Government tries to do, but I hope both Andrew Lansley on his reform of the doctors’ pension scheme and Michael Gove’s plan to revert back to the old O- level exams and harder A-level tests stick with these policies and do not give in to the Liberal Democrats and other left-wing thinkers.

From: Brian Sheridan, Redmires Road, Sheffield.

AT a time when examination boards are vying with each other to set the easiest papers and when Michael Gove is trying to restore some long-lost credibility to our education system I find it shocking that some of your correspondents are advocating what amounts to further dumbing-down (Yorkshire Post, June 22).

Brian Hanwell and John Gordon are less than enthusiastic about the place of French in schools. I would also ask Mr Hanwell, who was keen to drop French as a pupil and whose previous correspondence suggests an extremely liberal education philosophy, since when did kids always know what is best for them? If there is a shortage of specialised teachers it is compounded by such negative attitudes to foreign languages.

Have they never heard of aspirations? Are we content to remain the linguistic dunces of Europe because we have the glib but unfounded excuse that everybody else speaks English? In other European countries where, significantly, teaching is a higher-status profession than in Britain, at least one foreign language is compulsory.

I am I was as bad at chemistry as Mr Hanwell was at French but I am grateful for the experience of being exposed to it. Come to think, wasn’t chemistry one of the subjects (with languages) that the dumbers-down in government wanted to marginalise because it was too difficult?

Michael Gove may well turn out to be a failed visionary but his courageous bid to raise the bar is long overdue.

From: Michael Meadowcroft, Former Liberal MP, Waterloo Lane, Leeds.

IT is almost criminal when misinformation puts students off from going to higher education. There is yet another example in Sarah Freeman’s article (Students plot course for foreign universities as fees rise, Yorkshire Post, June 19).

She mentions that there is a 10 per cent drop in applications for places at English universities. She then quotes a “Dan Billington who set up the Hull-based Study International” as stating that “the average debt of someone finishing university in England in three years time is estimated at between £50,000 and £60,000”

If this figure were to be hung around a student’s neck then it certainly would be a deterrent but it is entirely fictitious.

Under the coalition Government’s policy, no English student has to pay anything up front, no interest is charged whilst the student is at university and there is no demand for repayment of the capital sum. In fact, nothing at all has to be paid until the former student is earning £420 per week, and then he or she has to pay £16. If the total sum is not paid after 30 years it is written off.

No student should be put off by the fees charged by the universities – they can submit applications without any fear of having a huge debt. It is a far better policy than the previous Labour government’s student loans.