The Title: ‘Driving Students to Quit A levels’

‘Driving Students to Quit A levels’i (Sister to the Independent)

At first I thought this was one of those wacky surveys that strenuously connects those learning how to drive with those quitting A levels. But no, pupils across the country are leaving their A level courses (up to 31% students in some areas). The reason? Too much heavy focus on academia.

I can see their point, the few practical A level options available are looked down upon. BTECs which the Government claims are equal to A levels are considered the easy option by the general public.

quitting a levels

from Google images

However, is the issue attitudes towards practical subjects or is it more of a problem of unnecessary pressurization? Each Government wants to drive more and more students into further and then higher education. A levels and university  doesn’t suit everyone. Sure, encourage people and fund equal opportunities but if some pupils enter A levels only to realise it’s not for them then perhaps alternative paths such as apprenticeships should be endorsed.


If A level and uni applications decrease then so what? As long as students are doing what they enjoy and not what parents or the Government think they should enjoy then don’t fuss. Currently, university applications are decreasing. As I’ve just mentioned this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. However, I believe at the moment the chief reason is more to do with the rise in tuition fees and the increased costs of living in a difficult economic time rather than self-realisation and back bone from students.


De-opinionated Education

It’s often commented that sometimes my articles lack personal input, they are perhaps a distant, out-of-body experience. It can be quite an effort to inject opinion into writing which tackles issues or history, whether this shows or not, I don’t know.

Some people will be thinking how could you not have your own thoughts on the matter? They silently wonder does the writer feel or indeed think for themselves at all?

I do feel; and I do think.

Writing however, has become separated from opinion. It is second nature to think one thing while writing the opposite or to purposefully hold back. Education asks you to devoid yourself of emotion; you write the facts, memorise the dates and quote the sources. No personal thought allowed. If it doesn’t come from a scholarly source, it’s not important.

Examiners force students to abandon thinking in favour of memorisation. It may not be rote learning but the effect is the same.

Surely this stunts development? Its no wonder young people enter the workplace with little or no initiative. Its been taught that if it wasn’t written down and published it’s not right. Thinking for yourself is a talent schools suppress by repeatedly dictating that what the individual student considers important is irrelevant.

Opinion and creativity are vital, discussions and debates allow information and understanding to be carried beyond exams. Memorisation is not help in the real world if it is cast aside once pens are set aside and the holidays begin. Like anything children’s thoughts, understanding and opinions need to mature if they are to flourish as individuals, this is only achieved through encouragement, intelligent conversation and recognition.

[links] Posts of Remembrance

9/11 – a date which will never be forgotten. The day the world stopped and watched in horror.

Posts to read, sit quietly, think and remember.

Personally I can’t say much about this date as I was only eight or nine but one thing I do remember was in the classroom at school perhaps a few days after the event. We were doing an activity which involved writing answers on white boards and holding them up. As usual we got a bit bored with what the teacher asked and began drawing silly things, smiley faces etc. Of course we all got moaned at, until our teacher noticed one particular boy had drawn a picture of a tower with a plane flying into the side. At our age we weren’t overly aware of worldly events but in that moment the room froze. Even if we didn’t understand the whole issue the teacher’s face was enough to send the most hardened city kid running for the hills. Needless to say he was sent off to the headmistress for a right talking to and has probably never thought of 9/11 in the same way again. My memory is hazy but that one event remains clear despite my eight-year-old self not truly comprehending the seriousness of the matter.

More September 11 –

Exam Issues – A Never Ending Tale

For the past 20 or so years politicians, journalists and the general public have been saying “exams are too easy”, complaining because the GCSE and A-level results have continuously improved. Now everyone’s worried because they didn’t improve – hypocrites! Maybe the exams have been made harder?

My brother was in year 10 (age 15, first year of the GCSE course) and he pointed out his science course was the first year it was taught, making him and his fellow classmates guinea pigs. This ultimately means they are at a disadvantage since teachers need time to build up course-specific resources, learn what the examiners want from students and thus refine their lesson plans. Hence, next years students will probably do better in this particular test.

This always makes me laugh 🙂

The complaints about exams getting easier has always peeved me – why can’t people be happy for the country’s’ youth? If results improve it’s obviously nothing to do with hard work but the exams are too easy (note the sarcasm) and when results don’t improve politicians jump down the throats of teachers and students, yakking on at them for not trying hard enough or failing to be prepared.

Maybe they should take the exams themselves? If they really looked they’d see that not only do they have little relevance to the real world but it’s more about how you answer a question, not the quality or quantity of actual knowledge. You could know everything under the sun about World War 2 but unless you can write an essay in the correct manner you’re stuffed.

Just looking at this picture gives me the creeps *shudders*

If I’m honest, I used this system to my advantage. Writing essays is (almost) natural for me and over the years I learnt how to play the system. Picking information to memorize and which to not bother with. For instance, English A-level requires studying certain books, and the trick is to learn parts of the book which can be applied to basically every possible question. Also, as long as you babble on about each point for long enough you don’t have to include so many little points. Does this make sense? Probably not but fellow students might know what I mean when I say most essays you write (whether for coursework or exams) are a lot of pointless typing when you don’t have any idea what you’re chatting on about.

It’s quite sad how the exam/school system works but as it’s considered the best option out a bad list I guess we’re stuck with it until some genius creates a magical, fair and equal system.

Whatever is happening with the exams universities obviously don’t trust their results, many have admitted to preferring the using the results gained from their own entrance exams over A-levels. This shouldn’t really be necessary, they could be used to choose from students who all have very similar grades but they certainly shouldn’t make A-levels practically redundant. This system adds unnecessary stress onto students who are already under so much pressure due to a lack of options post A-level – it’s more or less either uni or step back to age 16 and attend college, take up an apprenticeship or start job searching in a country where the economy means jobs are scarce.

I can’t think of a system which would reduce criticisms right now but perhaps eventually I will and I can make my fortune? Any body have any suggestions on where to start? Or perhaps you have your own pet peeves on the education system (English or otherwise)?

Education and the Wider World

Brofenbrenner (1979) researched human development and emphasised the importance of studying the ecology of development. He believed the environment surrounding an individual is very complex, it goes beyond the immediate, concrete setting. Brofenbrenner developed the ‘nested-eggs model’, demonstrating the layers of interaction experienced by children which directly, or indirectly, affects learning.

Firstly, at the core lies the micro-system which consists of a particular setting such as their household, social activities and school environment. As a young child home and school are more prominent but as the child ages peer groups and social clubs affect behaviour.

The meso-sphere links these environments, for instance, the quality of the household affects success in the school environment. Siblings have a strong effect on the learner, for instance, they can be great sources of knowledge and support, providing a positive role model. However, equally research shows young children with aggressive older siblings are more likely to develop conduct disorders, which generally leads to low academic performance. Also, Brody (2004) argues older siblings with excessive caring responsibilities have less time for home and school work; conversely Brody also suggests caring duties can have a positive impact through improving reading and language scores. For an adult the meso-system links environments such as family and work.

The third layer identified consists of the parents’ employment and other aspects which affect the child but the child is not an active participant. Parents who work a lot have less time for their children and so they loose out socially as well as academically, this is especially the case in shift work, usually experienced by lower-class families. Furthermore, those with higher incomes and educational backgrounds are more likely to purposefully move into better catchment areas (Hofferth et al, 1998). As a result, despite the aims of equality expressed through the comprehensive state system, some schools become very middle-class and respected, whereas others receive those lower down the social structure and become viewed as ‘unsuitable’ by middle-class parents. These stereotypes lead to different group dynamics within the schools as pupils react to labelling by society, therefore, social factors and group dynamics work in a symbiotic relationship inadvertently creating unequal opportunities.

The last layer portrayed by Brofenbrenner’s nested-egg model is the macro-sphere, which represents wider society, such as Governmental policy, which affects the child’s learning and progress. Societal views about single or working mothers, the availability of child care, accepted working hours, rates of unemployment and the economy all affect children’s’ and adult’s micro and meso-systems.

Brofenbrenner’s development model recognises the importance of each system as well as the links between them, not just the Microsystems which are commonly studied. However, Thomas (1992) stated Brofenbrenner’s theory is lax in explaining the relationships between Microsystems e.g. how does the involvement in school relate to family life? Overall, Brofenbrenner’s nested eggs model is a significant framework for developmental psychology since it tries to address the real world directly.

Respecting Your Teacher

Why are some teachers respected and others laughed at or ignored?

Becoming a teacher has to be one of the bravest jobs to undertake. Not only do you get scowled at from everybody else in society for having long holidays (they conveniently forget all the marking, and that just because school starts at nine and finishes at half-three doesn’t mean you do) and good pensions, you have to deal with bored children who don’t appreciate their education.

I only left school a year ago so I can still remember the teachers I liked, and why I liked them. Sometimes you stare absent-mindedly at the board wondering why the monotone lecturer ever became a teacher. Sure they know their stuff, and there’s no disputing that they’re experts in their respective fields but they can’t teach for toffee!

Then there are those who just shout. You ask a friend for a pen, you get shouted at. For some students this is embarrassing and hence when they are in need of help they won’t ask. For others, perhaps the less well-behaved, they view this as a challenge. The shouting teacher is unfair, highly strung and easy to wind up. Children love seeing how far they can go until you really snap. You know when you say to children if you continue to get annoyed your friends will continue to test you? Well, take your own advice and stop responding to such a high degree. Of course, there are those children who truly need a good talking to but it’s not always a good idea to shout and humiliate them in front of the whole class, they’ll only lash out in embarrassment or goad you to show off to their peers. Then again, maybe a bit of embarrassment is needed to make them stop; also it shows others in the class that they won’t get away with acting up. All students are different. No one ever said this job was easy 😀

Children are mean, there’s no doubt about it. Just like adults they will judge you on your appearance (at least the older ones will) and so looking professional is important. Dress like a scruff, you’ll get sneered at. Dress too much like a bank manager, you’ll get sneered at. Dress like them, you’ll get sneered at. Admittedly, there isn’t much children won’t sneer at so perhaps this is a moot point?

How to be a good teacher:

  • Friendly (but don’t BE their friend)
  • Can be informal
  • Helpful
  • Easy to approach
  • Supportive
  • Respectful of the students
  • Varied teaching style – you can’t help it if your students don’t learn the way you prefer to teach, you may be a brilliant teacher to some but to others you’re not. So don’t stick to one method, allow everyone an equal chance to reach their potential.

Being firm and authoritative is one thing, but becoming a dictator will not win you any fans and will only make the job harder. If the students are going to listen and learn, scaring or threatening them into silence will only get the minimum work done. Respecting and listening to your students will allow them to open up and reach their potential.

Of course, you could argue, why should I, as the teacher, do all the work? I am not saying that you should be the only making the effort, but you have a lot more experience of the ‘real’ world than your students and your age should enable you to take the high road and hope you shall be followed.

How to be a good student:

  • Punctuality
  • Participation
  • Complete homework
  • Stay alert and awake (even last thing on a Friday and first thing on a Monday)
  • Treat and respect your teacher as a fellow human, they’re not all aliens
  • Don’t talk back

What do you think makes a good teacher/student? Who has the most responsibility in the classroom? Did you respect all of your teachers, or just tolerate them?

To be a good student you need good teachers; to be a good teacher you need good students.