When people point to the greater number of students now getting ‘top grades’ in their exams and then they say this shows how Britain has ‘dumbed-down’ I am urged to remind them of the statistics on literacy. For example, the rate of literacy for Black females in the United States went from 30% to 70% in just forty years. Reading didn’t get easier; access to education was what changed in that time and hence, more people became better at reading. Similarly, a rise in people doing better in a test does not necessarily mean an unwarranted grade inflation, it can mean quite simply that more people know more things because we are teaching better.
The naysayers then say: “But if everyone gets As then the whole purpose is devalued”. Well, only if you see the purpose of those exams as being about sifting people apart from one another. Was reading suddenly devalued because twice as many people could do it? No. Reading is a good thing in and of itself regardless of how many others do it. If one day 30% of people get an A on a reading test and four decades later 70% of people are getting that A, that is a good day for society. More people know how to read and have more flexibility with their future.
More people getting As is neither a sure-fire sign that standards have dropped nor that the A has become meaningless. If you wish to argue that more As is a bad thing, you need to do better than this.