From education to employment

LSDA Teaching Aid Has Substance Following FE News Road Test

The FE sector is constantly evolving, with different stakeholders attempting to improve the quality of the training provided for the learners. In September ten brand new “A levels” have been launched in schools with the intention of giving students knowledge and skills that relate more directly to “specific occupational sectors”, such as “Applied business” and “Applied science”.

As part of the government drive on vocational based education, and an attempt to reinforce the value of “A Levels” in general, the Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA) has collaborated with more than 30 employers to produce a multi-media teaching tool to accompany the new subjects. Below, read a review of the teaching aid by FE News reporter James Ferrow.

Sound and Fury”¦

Apart from the flashy introductory graphics and the jazzy orange packaging that it arrives in, what immediately strikes you about this CD-ROM ““ sorry, multimedia learning tool ““ is that it is in itself the very embodiment of what many find so disappointing about the current state of post-16 education across the sector, that it is image conscious to an alarming degree.

The central question should surely be whether vocational courses should be forced to conform to the strictures of the supposedly “academic” AS/A2 system. Indeed, are we now supposed to view Business Studies and Applied Business as any different? Wasn”t Business Studies theoretically a more vocational form of Economics anyway? The mind boggles!

“¦Signifying Something?

In any case, we should refocus on the content of the CD-ROM itself, which is in fact rather good. The layout is user-friendly and straightforward. Each of the ten new subjects is broken down so that the information can be digested simply. One particularly useful aspect of the format is the way in which certain sections are cross-referenced to the syllabuses of the three exam boards that will cater for the new courses. For example, the “exploring the world of travel and tourism” component of the Travel and Tourism A-Level will be examined at AS Level by AQA and OCR but at A2 Level by Edexcel. This will be useful for teachers who now have to tailor their teaching methods to suit the precise intricacies of exam board requirments.

Indeed, this is very much a resource for teachers. Lesson plans, learning methods and activities are all covered. The meticulous and pre-planned nature of this CD-ROM is to such an extent that certain activities are given optimum time windows in which they should be completed by students! Still, for a teacher baffled by what “Applied ICT” actually is then this will be incredibly useful in the transition period.

Employers Interacting

The more interesting pieces of the CD-ROM come from the involvement of various contributors and employers who provide “real life” examples of the world of work. For example, the reflections of Eileen Cooper (Fine Artist) and a diary of her typical month provide invaluable insight to those with artistic ambitions. Moreover, the emphasis on practicalities, health and safety and the concept of the work place provide a strong focal point. The aim of encouraging students to think long-term and with a career in mind is refreshing and positive; one might even call it progressive.

Still there remains a nagging question question: surely if a 16 year old wanted to be an artist s/he would choose to study Art rather than Applied Art? Or is Applied Art intended to replace Art altogether? While the goal of moving away from “textbook” examples is admirable in many respects it seems flawed as a raison d”etre for the new subjects themselves. If by morphing old-style VCE qualifications into the new AS/A2 system there was an intention of boosting the kudos of vocational based qualifications it is surely a non-starter: students will surely be asking what the difference is. Is Applied Science easier than doing Physics, Chemistry and Biology? If so, sign me up!

James Ferrow

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