In defence of Polish A-Levels.

The Polish language is beautiful and widely believed to be one of the hardest to learn. All those whistling sounds, and combinations of consonants in words, like: krzesło [chair] or pszczoła [bee], which are almost impossible to pronounce for a non-Polish person and prove difficult even to Poles themselves.

Also, did you know that Polish has several letters, which don’t exist in any other language, even though the primary alphabet is Latin like in most European languages. Obviously it was the Poles, who looked at the Latin alphabet and decided to make it more complicated for everyone by adding some stuff to it.

But this post is not about praising my native tongue. It is about AQA’s recent decision to discontinue Polish A-Level exams from 2018. This decision is somewhat ridiculous and I’m about to tell you why.

Official reasons.

Officially this decision is motivated by low turnout and results, as well as an insufficient number of trained examiners. Here’s why those reasons make little sense.

Firstly, the results for Polish a-levels are exceptionally good. In 2011 73.8% of students attained grade B or higher. That number rose to 76.7% by 2014. Some of you might say “Hold on Pole, most of those who take these exams are native speakers, so it’s not surprising their results are this high”. Can’t argue with that.

However, why their results are so high is irrelevant. What matters is that the whole “the results are too low” thing is not true. Now, these figures don’t come out of nowhere, I didn’t just take from thin air. These are the official AQA statistics, which you can find on their website.

Unfortunately I was unable to find out how many students actually take Polish  a-levels each year. However, as a volunteer worker and a former student of one of Polish supplementary schools, I can say that the number of students is growing each year. This is due to the fact that more and more Poles immigrate to UK and there are more Polish children born here.

Not all of those children go to Polish schools, that much is true, but the majority do. So saying that the turnout is too low comes as a bit of a surprise. Why is it that the turnout wasn’t too low in the past, when the number of students now is higher than ever?

The insufficient number of trained examiners is the only reason that I somewhat understand. Out of all of them it makes, relatively, the most sense. If the number of students and exam takers has been growing, there can really be a shortage of examiners. However, any such shortage would be AQA’s fault, wouldn’t it? Why should Polish students pay for someone else’s mistakes.

Real reasons?

Put on your tin foil hats, because I’m about to do some conspiracy theory speculation. In my humble opinion there are two real reasons for AQA’a decision. I should now mention that what I’m about to write will be pure speculation, whether you believe it or not is up to you.

Reason number one, as with most things, is money. The government and other institutions are looking for savings wherever they can. To them, putting secondary language a-levels in a bin is simple, because it would mostly impact the immigrants, who make an easy target. At this point I will mention that Polish is not the only language getting the axe, Punjabi, Bengali and Modern Hebrew are also under threat.

The shortage of trained examiners is probably a direct result of this hunt for savings. If you’re one of those people who say: “Why should my hard earned taxes be spent on a bunch of immigrants?”, consider this. Immigrants also work hard, probably harder than most, and pay their taxes and bills as any British nationals. Not to mention that immigrant workers are probably the best thing that happened to the British economy in years, but that’s an argument for another day.

Reason number two is the absurd belief that Polish a-levels give Poles an unfair advantage. What advantage, you ask? Well, all those B and A results give them extra points for universities. Why is it unfair? Because they take Polish as a second language, much like English students take French or Spanish, even though it’s their native language. It is hard to get low results if the language being examined is the one you were speaking in since you said your first word. There are a few facts one can forget or choose to ignore.

Like the fact English, the language in which all lectures and future exams will be made, is a second language for most of Polish students. Even I, someone who has lived in UK for years, studied in a sixth form and other education institutes before that, have some problems with English. Also, there are Polish students, who were born or have been living from a young age in England. As a volunteer at a Polish Saturday School, who works with such students, I can say that they struggle with their native language. It’s because it is not the primary language they use in their every day lives. So it all balances out the whole “it’s their native language” nonsense.

Finally, Polish a levels are not mandatory, they are something Polish students do on top of their regular courses in British schools. They go to supplementary schools on Saturdays or in evenings. Saying that it gives them unfair advantage would be like blaming an English student for going to an evening class to study a subject not offered by their college or sixth form.

In all honesty, I hope that my speculation is wrong, but as this old saying goes: hope is the mother of naive and stupid. If you agree with anything I wrote here and also think that AQA made a mistake, there is a petition going to save the Polish a levels.




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