1/ For my UK tweeps this AM, I want to walk everyone through the Canadian* system of university admissions, just to show you how low-stakes this process can actually be.

*most of Canada, there are exceptions, wouldn't be Canada without exceptions
2/ Alberta apart, we don't do final exams (and even there they're not a huge deal). Assessment is done the same way it is throughout the K-12 system: by a series of regular assessment (assignments, tests, projects) in a variety of formats, graded according to a rubric.
3/ As a result, every student has an assessed grade in at least a half-dozen subjects for each year of secondary. This is what is submitted to universities for admissions. Basically, it's the US system without the SAT/ACT.
4/ Applications are due January-March (depends on province). So admission decisions are made based on grades in year 11 and half of year 12. Crazy, right? And - get this - no one thinks that's unfair, because in fact that's a pretty good proxy for final grades
5/ But wait, what about the reliability of the results? Wouldn't this encourage grade inflation? No, because universities aren't stupid. They know which schools produce successful students & which don't, so they interpret school-assigned grades on a curve http://higheredstrategy.com/the-system-works/
6/ This would probably cause riots in England. But they don't in Canada because i) the system is seen as widely fair and ii) there aren't that many university courses that are so prestigious that people aren't satisfied with a close substitute. (Number is >0 but probably not >10)
7/ The secret is twofold: first of all, the institutional prestige hierarchy has a pretty gentle slope. Second, and probably more importantly - our most prestigious institutions are among our largest. McGill, Toronto and UBC collectively teach about 12% of nation's undergrads.
8/ Obvs these are not conditions which can easily be recreated elsewhere. And we didn't adopt these policies deliberately to keep down stratification (in fact, research Us are big because packing undergrads in like sardines is how they generate surpluses to do expensive research)
9/ The point is: other worlds are possible. You just need to face up to the damage caused by stratification and a particularly narrow version of meritocracy.

I think this is where I am supposed to reference Tomlinson, so I will.

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