Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 12 July 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Future bright for talented students

Congratulations are due to all the pupils who sat their A-Levels this year.

Results show that local students yet again outperformed their counterparts in England and Wales by significant margins in gaining the top grades. And yet again girls did better than boys. The sterling results were due to hard work as well as talent and are all the more meritable because more pupils are taking the exams, widening the ability range.

As ever some critics try to downgrade the pupils’ performance by complaining that the tests have become too easy.

In England the Education Secretary Michael Gove has ordered a review aimed at making A-Levels more rigorous.

Doubtlessly the cream will still rise to the top and Northern Ireland will continue to be the leading region in the UK when the results come out.

It is evident given the 10% rise in A-Level entries during the past five years in Northern Ireland, that more and more young people feel a third level education is vital for future job prospects.

One in five 18 – 24-year-olds in the province cannot find a job, a shocking waste of talent, and one of the most striking signs of the depth of the recession here. But getting to university here is becoming more difficult because of the cap on the number of places at Queen’s and the University of Ulster. This needs to be addressed by the Executive.

At least students here have been spared the worst of the fees excesses imposed by universities in England where most have an annual charge of £9,000. Our fees are set at a more sensible level, although it can still leave students with a hefty debt burden on graduation.

What is clear is that we have thousands of very talented young people here who are victims of a cruel downturn in the economy. There are few words of comfort for them at present, but if they continue to hone their talents they will be well placed to prosper when the economy recovers.

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