It would be naive to assume that education is a ‘one-size-fits-all’ affair. The way one student learns and absorbs information can differ greatly to another, which is why we should consider ourselves fortunate to be living at a time when there is real choice. However, before making a choice, students must first identify where their strengths lie, or request some assistance in doing so. For this to be possible, there needs to be more information and transparency when it comes to the benefits of all options in post-16 education.
A-levels are regarded as the ‘gold standard’ when it comes to post-16 education, and not just for those who reside in the UK. Many A-level colleges in London have a high intake of international students who choose to study A-levels as they offer a clear path to many high-quality degree courses.
By choosing A levels, students are given the opportunity to study three or four subjects in depth. For those who have a clear, long-term goal, such as a career in Medicine, A levels offer the perfect opportunity to concentrate on the details of a subject and gain a real, in-depth understanding.
For students who do not have an immediate career focus, and are therefore not restricted to taking specific subjects, it is still important that appropriate choices are made. Those wishing to attend a Russell Group university, for example, should pay close attention to what are considered ‘facilitating subjects’. These subjects are academically focused and considered more ‘credible’ when applying for some degree courses.
A-level college students can expect to be tested rigorously and work independently in order to achieve their best. A levels are not the best option for students who are unsuited to theoretical analysis and exam-based assessments.
International Baccalaureate (IB)
For students who don’t wish to be pinned down to just three or four subjects but still want a more traditional, academic experience, this internationally recognised diploma programme is a good option. IB students choose six subjects in total, usually three that are studied at higher level, and three at the standard level. The chosen subjects must include maths, a humanities subject and at least one science. Students must also study English language and literature in addition to a foreign language.
Although the International Baccalaureate diploma is offered as an alternative to A levels, it is still a very demanding option. A student will be expected to write a thoroughly researched 4,000-word essay, in addition to being able to demonstrate more practical skills. The IB is ideal for students who wish to keep their options open and show versatility in the range of subjects that they have chosen, while still gaining a good, in-depth understanding.
For students who are identified as being strongest in practical ways of learning, opting to study a BTEC can be beneficial. The subject choices are vast, and have a heavy focus on coursework and assignments. Students are given a more ‘hands-on’ experience with the opportunity to focus and specialise in their second year.
A BTEC qualification is considered the equivalent to three A levels for good reason. Although the emphasis is not on academic learning, students will be expected to display practical skills in ways that demonstrate they have fully understood the theory behind them. For those who have a good idea of which career they wish to go on to, the practical skills they can gain on a vocational course will prove invaluable once they enter the workforce.
Although a BTEC qualification offers a good foundation for students who wish to go straight into work, those who are interested in going onto university also benefit from having developed practical skills. Some who go on to study at university credit their experience of dealing with vast amounts of BTEC coursework as the reason why they were able to make a smooth transition to university-style learning.
The key to any student’s success, academic or otherwise, is finding a path that works best for them and their individual abilities. There is nothing wrong with playing to one’s strengths. In fact, getting a firm grasp on how to do this effectively will be beneficial to students in the long run, whatever they choose to do.
Source: The Guardian