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A pain in the AS?
Member Name: kjl12
Date: 10/04/05, updated on 28/04/05 (183 review reads)
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For those of you outside education, AS Levels were introduced as part of the government's Curriculum 2000 in England, Northern Ireland and Wales and was the most radical development in the post-16 curriculum since the introduction of A levels in 1951.
To promote a breadth of choice for young people. Instead of the traditional path of 3 A levels, nearly always in a combination of related subjects (i.e. 3 sciences), students were to be given the choice of studying more subjects in different permutations.
Well, students would be encouraged to study 4 subjects in year 12 (the lower sixth) and then 3 in year 13. The idea was that these need not be the subjects studied the previous year - a one year course would be an AS Level and a two year course an A2 level, and a student could leave school with a mix of the two. So you could do Maths, English, French and Economics one year and then Maths, English, German the next year and leave with 2 x A2 and 3 x AS. Anyone still awake? You explain this to sixth formers worried about getting into uni!!!
Most students in my experience are back where they would have been anyway, doing the same three subjects for two years (plus often General Studies). Why? Because..
- They find it hard to cope with 4 subjects in year 12, especially if they're expected to do project work or coursework
- In lots of subjects it's really difficult to get to the required standard in year in order to do AS - I teach German and French and we've had real problems and I know Maths have. If you do badly in your AS year, you can resit the next year so most students just carry on and retake alongside their A level studies and do better the next year!
In fact lots of schools have found ways around the problem. Some don't enter candidates for AS at all, and they do all the exams at the end of yr 13. And lots more schools are doing the IB (International Baccalaureate) which is a much wider diploma exam based on the continental model.
In my opinion this system is entirely exam driven. I used to spend yr12 instilling a love of language in my students, showing them German films, reading novels together. And now? Now lesson one is the requirements of the exam and that is at the forefront all the way through, because they've got mocks in the January of their yr12 year! It's taken all the fun out of it and made some subjects harder than others. My students are constantly telling me that humanities are easier because they've already covered some of the material at GCSE for example.
The government has ignored Tomlinson's suggestion to have a diploma exam and I think they're wrong. We need a wide post 16 curriculum that makes every student study a wide range of subjects properly before they go on to university, like other successful European countries do, and in my opinion that should include a foreign language.
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