I HAVE mixed feelings about my years spent in education. It wasn’t a particulary happy time for me.

My heart goes out to those young people who picked up their GCSE and A-level results a couple of weeks ago and didn’t do as well as they had hoped.

I know that feeling only too well.

I was somewhat distracted during my time at school and remain eternally grateful that my chosen profession back in the day still took on apprentices without the need for a raft of qualifications.

These days, you only get taken on as a trainee with my employers if you have a degree and a post-graduate qualification. How times change.

But I have another reason for being sympathetic towards the current generation of schoolchildren.

They have been the unwitting pawns in an ever-changing eduction landscape.

High schools became academies, freed from local authority control.

Then primary schools got the academy treatment.

No matter how hard pupils worked, not matter how loyal and diligent their teachers were, no matter how supportive their families, you could stake your mortgage on the fact that on exam results day, there would be a chorus of critics, ready to claim that we as a nation had ‘dumbed down’ the exams.

The litany of complaints is a familiar refrain: They are too easy now, we are being overtaken by other countries, the modular system allows too many resits to bump up grades; parents do the coursework for their kids; it was much harder to pass in my day, etc etc.

Another reason I feel sorry for today’s pupils is the constant stream of changes forced on them.

We are currently in the midst of another series of ‘improvements’, as if we needed them.

The government, driven by Michael Gove, the former Secretary of State for Education, has done away with modular exams and replaced them with so-called linear exams.

In simple terms, it’s back to the future with two years of GCSE or A-level work judged on a final exam with a far lower proportion of the final grade being allocated to the much-maligned coursework.

Now I’m no educational expert but I am an experienced adult learner.

I did my O-levels when I was 16 ( for those below a certain age, O-levels were the exams old people sat before the introduction of GCSEs).

I also went back to college as an adult to take a degree and most recently, I decided to fill a gap in my educational qualifications by taking maths GCSE.

All my O-levels were linear, tested by a series of final exams. The more recent qualifications were modular, tested at the end of each module and coursework was a significant proportion of the mark for each moduleEven as a youngster, I felt that ‘final’ exams at the end of a two-year course tested my memory, rather than my ability to learn, understand and synthesise information.

Given a choice, I would go for modular learning every time, for most subjects. But having said all that, and having pinned my colours to the modular mast, I think you can take it a little bit too far.

Apparently, there is an increasing number of universities awarding degrees based solely on coursework.

Yes, that’s right. You can walk away from your degree ceremony clutching your prized certificate tied up with its pretty ribbon without ever having seen the inside of an exam room.

According to an article in a national newspaper, hundreds of courses are now 90 to 100 per cent coursework, with first and second year exams and traditional finals abolished in subjects as wide ranging as history, English, psychology, philosophy, media, American studies, childhood studies, and business management.

This, apparently, is more prevalent in the newer universities – the former polytecnics.

The higher up the educational food chain you go, he more likely you are to have to sit ‘finals’.

But real life is neither modular or linear. It’s a combination of both. Sometimes we are tested on our memory, sometimes we are tested on acquired knowledge and experience.

Shouldn’t our students be tested the same way?

But if education is easier for university students, it’s about to get a whole lot harder for schoolkids.

Youngsters who have just returned to school after the summer holidays are in for a bit of a shock with the introduction of a new, tougher national curriculum.

Under the new curriculum, children aged five will have to recite poetry by heart, 11-year-olds will sit maths exams without calculators and teenagers will study at least two Shakespeare plays.

Computer programming will be taught from five to 14, and foreign languages will be made compulsory at primary school.

There will be a new emphasis on spelling and grammar, and history will focus on the story of Britain.

We’ll have to wait and see how that works out.