There’s comes a time in school where you’re left choosing your next step. For many the next step is through the form of A levels. A few years later, though, do you ever find yourself asking were those two years worth it? Luke and Sam put across their views:
Luke: It’s been two years now since I finished my A levels. Like Sam here, I studied at a sixth form college and to be perfectly honest: so far (though there’s not much to compare it to) it has been the best two years of my life. The reason being because at the core, my A levels were a community. With roughly 100 of us we were a close-knit community, which meant there was always plenty of laughs, gossip and mass (it was a catholic school).
Now studying within a college environment, I feel that students miss out from not studying in this environment. Sure you still make friends and there is an argument that you have more independence, but education shouldn’t be institutionalised. We learn best from fun and laughter, whether it is creativity or academic. College life does lack its own trademark with fewer stories to tell for the future.
Sam: One of the things I hate most is wasting time. Queuing for tickets that sell out, or seeing a truly terrible film where I feel that I will never get those two hours back.
Having left college 2 years ago, I feel I have made good progress in my professional life. With a lot of work experience behind me and looking to experience even more on-the-job training (and maybe taking up an NVQ or two) I can’t help feel like A levels were a bit of a waste. The 4 subjects that I was limited to didn’t link together too much and haven’t prepared me practically for the working world, which is where an apprenticeship probably would have been much more beneficial.
Luke: In terms of the A levels themselves though, were they worth it? Two years down the line, have they benefited me? Well to put it simply: no. I can only talk about the short-term influence of A levels and I bear in mind long-term could be different. I imagine jobs in the future will be interested in my portfolio and university qualifications rather than 4 A levels but we won’t know.
Sam: I don’t know if I stand alone in my opinion but I was led to believe that A Levels would come across more superior than any BTECs that I would take, which is the reason why I dropped one of my best subjects (a BTEC) after the first year because I was made to feel it was pointless. Looking back, that was one of the worst mistakes ever. I ended up lacking in important areas of skill needed for industry work after stressing and swearing for the “2 most important years of my life”, and incidentally feeling like I was getting nowhere.
Luke: At the time all of us from any subject could agree there were many flaws. Teaching and exams were taught around mark schemes rather than for the knowledge and the want to learn, with just as much time being spent on how to format your question rather than actually answer it. Exam boards now more than ever are set up on setting people from best to worst that the system doesn’t get a chance to teach students. An example of this is Applied IT; to quote our teacher: ‘The examiner won’t have time to read your 10,000-word coursework, they will just be looking for the key words’. Well, why bother then?
Sam: Since leaving college my CV has been changed more times than I can count. From seminars at university and government schemes set up to help improve my CV, A levels haven’t come into the equation much. It’s all about the experience in industry, experience that was compulsory when completing GCSEs but which was completely ignored during further academic study. Part of me wishes that A Levels would be scrapped much like O-Levels were for another form of education that is more interactive and less classroom-based.
Luke: I equally think, though, you’ll easily have a tough future without A levels. It’s not necessarily the A level itself that I feel is wrong but the way it has to be taught and marked. It’s just part of the system in life we have to go through and make the most out of. If you’re reading this for advice on whether to choose sixth form or college (why?) then I’d push you for sixth form easily, but each to their own.
Sam: In all honesty, I don’t know if I would be in a similar position today if it wasn’t for my A levels. They did inadvertently motivate me to do more away from the classroom so I am grateful for that. But I have to encourage others to realise the transition from GCSE to further education is very varied and there are many options such as Apprenticeships, NVQs and BTECs. Just because A levels appear the clearest option doesn’t mean they are.
Also dear employees, when are you going to recognise my A in Citizenship that I was promised was going to make me stand out of the crowd?