In a world where algorithms are usually used to our benefit, from suggesting our favourite songs or even new people for us to follow on social media, it’s hard to imagine that something designed to make life easier could be so destructive.
2020 has been a year full 0f surprises and has been particularly hard on the younger generation. It has been a year of mental strain, loneliness and frustration, but with everything else being pushed to the side, the one thing students across the UK should feel secure about is their education. Unfortunately, students have now lost faith in a system they are meant to trust the most and have been forced into a world full of even more uncertainty than before.
For many of us looking back at our A-level results day, we can remember celebrating the ending of an important journey and the start of a brand experience waiting ahead. Unfortunately, the class of 2020 will not have the same hopeful memories as many others before as a vast majority are facing adjusted grades due to the impact of COVID-19.
Ofqual, who is responsible for regulating qualifications, tests, and exams across England and other territories across the UK, has been under fire lately due to an assessor’s algorithm that has effected tons of students waiting for their A-level results. For anyone who is reading this and has no idea what the fuss is about, A-level grades play a vital role in university placements- if students do not get the A-level results they need for their desired university course they will be denied placement and will be left without many options. Almost 39.1%, which is around two out of five students, had their grades pushed down by one or more; meaning that if a student was predicted an A their grades could slip to as low as a C.
The algorithm has been criticized for using unfair information to assess students and their circumstances to produce an “accurate” estimate for their final grades. It has been said that one of the key factors that make this system so detrimental is its ability to rank the lower students further down if there have been too many high grades predicted. The Ofqual algorithm uses students performance statistics from even as far back as key stage 2 and their GCSE averages, which we have to admit is pretty irrelevant considering key stage, GCSE and A-levels are not always linked entirely in the first place. Another factor in the algorithm appears to be the school’s performance across a series of years, meaning that a student could be affected by year groups and Ofsted reports before they even attended the school; which continues to add to our point that there seems to be a strong theme of inaccurate assessments.
With many young people protesting across the country, burning the result papers, and demanding their originally predicted grades to be reinforced it made us think; what was the benefit of this algorithm in the first place? Many students were expecting to not be able to sit exams this year due to social distancing and other COVID-19 related restrictions, and many were able to be at peace with having their predicted grades being final. Why would there be a need to adjust a system that would have worked perfectly fine? The student’s had been working continuously hard before the pandemic to achieve those predicted grades from teachers who know them and have encountered their desire and individual hunger for their futures up close, why allow technology to get in the way of something so personal? Technology isn’t always key and some things need to be held to more traditional values to ensure an accurate and fair result. We stand with those students who have worked tirelessly despite the many unexpected obsticles placed in front of them this year and hope that there are fair solutions and a sense of optimism given to the generation that needs and deserves it the most!