I read The Guardian like a woman possessed. After I check BBC News of a morning, I always head to guardian.co.uk to get my fix of Tory and Lib Dems arguing. It really never gets old.
Anyhoo, I have just been reading a piece about how the government are shocked (shocked, I tell you!) that most universities are charging the top fees of £9k a year. Never mind that anyone with half a brain could see that was going to happen…
And then I went to read the comments, and there are the usual posts of how A Levels have gotten easier and how everyone takes a ‘Mickey mouse degree’ and that the only real subjects are SCIENCE god dammit! And this always makes me angry so I thought I’d write a post on it.
I have no idea if A Levels are easier than in the past. My parents didn’t take them so I have no point of reference. The thing with A Levels are that you are taught to pass the exam. I don’t think the exams have gotten easier, it’s just that teaching methods have changed to help people pass them. I don’t really see what is wrong with this, but of course with this system it does sort of become a competition on who can retain the most information in their head.
This all stops once you get to university, so I don’t think A Levels are ideal preparation. I never did very well in coursework in A Levels but I rocked at exams. Law A Level was 100% exam based and I got an A (there was no silly A* back in 2006!) But I never did well in coursework because it was very much – mention this and you get a mark – based. University work is the opposite; you are graded on putting forth an argument and backing it up with appropriate evidence. I think Law A Level requires you to do this to a certain extent, but I think more A Levels should be like this, if only to stop the grumpy lot on The Guardian!
Then we get to the ‘Mickey Mouse degree’ bit. What older generations forget is that my generation were sold a lie that if we did well in education, the world was our oyster. To an extent this is still true (though most jobs now ask for degrees and experience because apparently they are too lazy to train staff themselves); and most jobs who want a graduate want just that; a graduate. They don’t care if your degree is in Drama or IT; they just want somebody who is intelligent and self motivated enough to get a degree.
There is also the argument that too many people are going to university – but you told us to! When I was doing my A Levels there was absolutely no question of doing anything else. I ummed and ahhed over studying Anthropology, Psychology or Drama, and of course I picked Drama. I WISH I had done Anthro, but there you go! The fact of the matter being that it was unlikely I was going to get a job in any of those areas so I might as well just get a degree in anything.
The stupid thing is that the kids who left school after their GCSEs are now retail managers, and the ones who have degrees are working at the bottom. In the end, a degree never did get them anywhere.
This is why my plan is to get my degree, and then hopefully study a Masters in Sweden. The Masters I have my eye on includes a ten week internship and I am hoping all together it will be enough to get me started on a career over there. It makes me sad to think that I can have it all sorted so easily when I think of moving to Sweden, but when I think of staying here I am at a loss of what to do because everybody keeps moving the goalposts – yes you do need a degree, oh but now we also want experience, and damn why don’t universities train you to be a better employee? (That was never a university’s job and I hate that argument.)
Education needs to be a higher priority in this country, but judging by the fact that comments like the ones above litter the internet, it is clear to see that we don’t hold education in the esteem that it deserves. I believe that if someone is willing and intelligent enough, a university degree should never be denied to them. And yes, £9k a year is denying it to some. I think I would have gone straight to the OU if I had been faced with fees of that much. Or gone abroad!