Racing Ahead in Iran

19 February 2006

On Saturday my stepmother and her sister, Shaheen, invited us to dinner. They cooked us Iranian food: amazing rice dishes and soup with saffron and pasta, yoghurt and cucumber sauce, fried aberguine. It was delicious. My stepmother is Iranian, as is Shaheen, who is visiting for a few months. Shaheen had invited around the son of her husband’s best friend, a young chap in his twenties called Ario. He is doing a Masters in Electrical Engineering at Imperial, and is aiming to do a Ph D. He came to England to do his A Levels. He told me that he was shocked by how easy the Maths and Physics A Levels were compared with the equivalent exams in Iran. ‘In Iran you are expected to work hard, very hard. I found the A Levels very easy indeed. I would say that mathematically I was three years ahead of the English students.’ He wasn’t boasting. He was a very modest person really, just stating it as he saw it. He said that at the level he was at now, the pupils taught in English schools were really struggling because their Maths wasn’t good enough.

This led into a whole discussion about the English exam system, which we all agreed was far too easy for the really clever pupils, but seemed to put off the less able ones. Unfortunately, I had to agree with him. Somehow we haven’t got it right. The system doesn’t stretch the clever pupils, and yet puts off the more ‘educationally challenged’ pupils. The worst of both worlds.

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