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.

Of the 1%, By the 1%, For the 1%

We are the 99% – London

The Occupy Movement originated in New York as people banded together to protest against the banks, large corporate companies and selfish institutions who command the majority of the worlds’ wealth despite only making up 1% of the population. The Movement claims to represent the 99% of disenchanted, frustrated citizens. The Movement spread worldwide with protests breaking out on the streets with varying effects. The Arab Spring revolutions aimed to over throw tyrants and dictators in order for the people to claim back their country and their rights. Over here in Britain the protests had a very different feel, almost unrecognisable as connected to the violence breaking out in the Arab world.

In November 2010 British students paraded in London, protesting against the tuition fees rise and cuts in Education spending. Although most remained peaceful there were sporadic outbursts of violence and vandalism resulting in the injuries of both protesters and police. At one point the car carrying Prince Charles and Camilla was attacked. Demonstrations also took place in Cardiff, York, Cambridge, Brighton, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle, Bath, Scunthorpe, Edinburgh and Liverpool. Events also happened in Universities as buildings were occupied in Oxford, Birmingham, Nottingham and York. There were more protests a year later but with an increase in policing and the threat of plastic bullets things remained more civilised and controlled.

Police clash with protesters in London

In 2011 the Occupy London Movement realised a statement declaring their intentions to refuse to accept public sector cuts, pay for the banks crisis and protect against pollution. To see the full statement click here.

In 2008 the UK Zeitgeist Movement was founded, which claims the problems of corruption, poverty, war, starvation and homelessness are ‘symptoms’ of an outdated social structure rather than the fault of political policy or institutional corruption or a flaw in human nature. This slightly different view claims to not belong to any particular strand of political thought; it sees the world as a single system and all human beings as a single family. It recognises that all countries must disarm, share resources and ideas and accept one another if we are to survive.

To me the Zeitgeist Movement is very optimistic and not at all realistic. For all countries to essentially become ‘friends’ a miracle in needed. Even after wars end and countries have been rebuilt and new alliances made the thought is always there, niggling at the back of peoples’ minds. For instance, despite WW2 ending in 1945 many of the British population feel the need to shout out to the Germans “two world wars and one world cup”. WW2 was a couple of generations ago; the people who are still holding grudges and sneering at the supposed ‘opposition’ have no right to do so. I’m sure there are similar feelings all over the world in relation to bygone eras. If two countries that get along cannot disperse these racist sentiments how can we expect countries in the midst of war, terrorist attacks and general uncertainty to make peace and drop all weapons?

As for protesting, which the majority of the Occupy Movement is about, do they really work? As we can see with the student demonstrations (an issue close to me), it made no difference. The tuition fees went up and first year students starting this year are going to leave education with higher debts than ever before. Equally, strike action has not seemed to influence government decisions, public sector cuts still happened, large parts of the NHS are being reformed and citizens are more disillusioned than ever.

London protests against budget cuts

The big question asked up and down the country, symbolised by the Occupy Movement, is why are we suffering for something which is not our fault and mostly out of our control? Sure many people got into debt but it was the banks who continued lending money to those they surely knew wouldn’t be able to pay it back. The banks essentially gambled their money, a risk that didn’t pay off, and now the public are paying increased taxes so they can receive huge bonuses and retire knowing someone else will come in and sort out their mess.

You can argue governments don’t have a choice but to bail out banks and resort to taxes in order for the economy to stabilise but shouldn’t they at least hold the bankers and business men accountable? No, they don’t. And why? Because they don’t want to cut off the votes and financial support of the wealthy, powerful 1%. What does the other 99% matter when they only command little influence?

Twenty five years ago the top 12% controlled 33% of wealth, now it is the top 1% controlling 40%. The incomes of the top 1% have increased by 18% over the past decade whereas the middle have seen a fall in income. The more divided a society becomes in relation to wealth, the more reluctant the wealthy are to spend money on common needs. The rich don’t rely on the government for medicine, education, security or healthy environments such as parks, they have the means to purchase these for themselves. As riches increase the top 1% become paranoid and will fight against the formation of a strong government who will redistribute their wealth into the majority of the population. A government which is gridlocked will not raise top-rate taxes or decrease bonuses.

Those of a more conservative view will argue the top deserve to be at the top, they worked hard to get there in a meritocratic society. And sure they have examples at the ready, Sir Alan Sugar for one, David Beckham etc. But, by increasing inequality they are also shrinking opportunities and as a result, undermining efficient productivity. With a lack of social mobility society will stagnate and eventually crumble. It really is ‘of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%’.

To make matters worse the globalised marketplace allows for corporations to use cheaper, overseas labour thus denying their countrymen jobs. In July 2011 Government ministers handed over a train building contract to a German company rather than keeping it the UK with Britain’s last train-maker, Bombardier. After years of proud work on British railways and trains many lost their jobs due to the Governments actions. Bombardier, in Derby, had been around for 170 years and at it’s peak produced 200 wagons a week for railways all over the world, but now that legacy has come to an abrupt end to the detriment of many British workers as well as the manufacturing industry.

So the occupy movements have the right idea but can protests really help? Even ignoring the violent clashes that Governments are unwilling to respond to it doesn’t seem like they listen to demonstrations and parades, after all 3 million people didn’t stop Blair from going to war in Iraq what chance do we have this time?

‘Stop the War’ march in February 2003


(Images from google)

Dear Mum and Dad

  • No matter how many times you ask my room will remain messy; clean but messy. I need half of my things to be in my house at uni for there to be adequate storage space overall.
  • If I appear in the kitchen earlier than usual I do not appreciate the “who’s this!?” exclaimed with a dramatic stare at the time. In fact this reaction encourages me to stay in bed for a little longer if I can’t be bothered to deal with the sarcasm.
  • Don’t mess with my hair; it annoyed me when I was 10 it will annoy me when I’m 100. (Although you may be wearing me down on this issue – slightly)
  • If I’m on the laptop when you come home it does not mean I have been on it all day (same goes for sitting in the same chair or watching TV)
  • If you look over my shoulder I will hide what I’m doing, if you ask nicely I will show you – manners people!
  • If I go to bed early I might not be ill or tired – I just can’t be bothered to watch more rubbish on the TV
  • Every time you ask me how I’m feeling the answer will be ‘fine’ – just back off and I will inform you if I feel ill
  • I happen to enjoy nice, gentle murders like ‘Murder, She Wrote’ – I don’t care if they’re sponsored by denature accessories or support chairs for the elderly
  • Just because I’m 19 doesn’t mean I want to stop bouncing on the trampoline or messing around in a paddling pool or watching kids Disney films
  • Just because I’m not up when you leave the house doesn’t mean I’ve been in bed all day, more often than not I get up 10 minutes after you’ve left (refer to point 2)
  • Yes, I buy lots of shoes, but at a fraction of the cost of Mums’ (same goes for clothes)
  • There is a reason I don’t like catching the bus – it’s always late and there are too few (one an hour) to warrant a quick trip to the pharmacy, I’d be standing around all day waiting to come home
  • The Wii fit does count as exercise!
  • Stop getting stressed and snappy when I offer to help but then start complaining that no one helps around the house (yes Mum, this is aimed at you 🙂 )
  • Updating a new blog post does count as an accomplishment, it is not ‘nothing’
  • Ok, so I come downstairs and straight away its moan, moan, moan, I don’t care if it’s half in jest. I was in a good mood until I got downstairs, now I’m annoyed, made worse because I’m annoyed that I’m annoyed. I prefer a nice quiet kitchen when making breakfast (point 10), at least let me wake up before counting the number of my shoes by the door or the number of napkins in the sitting room. A simple old-fashioned “good morning” will do.

Dear Mum and Dad, I love you very much but I can’t wait for uni to start-up again.

Anybody else have any ‘Dear Mum and Dad’ messages? Let it all out 😀

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)?

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.