#skillsseptember – To Bacc or not to Bacc?
The deadline for responses to the Welsh Government on the status of the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification is TODAY.
You can find more information here.
Here are two young people who shared their opinions.
The Welsh Baccalaureate gives students loads of opportunities to learn new skills and use them practically to fulfil projects and tasks, especially at a higher level, which is undertaken during Year 12 and 13 in school, concurrent with studying for A-levels. It gives students many opportunities to try new things and the course has lots of different elements which suit everyone, and suit the different styles students have of learning e.g. teamwork, or individual working, using numeracy and language skills, and it even gives young people an opportunity to create a creative project such as a song or a film, as part of the individual project.
The individual project was the element which benefited me the most. It’s full of key skills as I move on to higher education at university, and even further as I enter the world of work. These skills include how to research, how to decide what information or data is useful to my subject, how to decide whether sources are genuine or not, and how to find reliable sources in the first place. It teaches you how to conduct an interview or a questionnaire, and how to use that data or primary information in your project to develop a standpoint or opinion. It was also crucial to show numeracy skills at Level 3 or higher, so the Baccalaureate gives students an opportunity to learn how to use numeracy effectively. E.g. using a standard correction to account for the veracity of data points. Also, good digital communication skills, and how the project is structured and appears in a document, are very important, especially as you prepare to write extended essays at university, or it will be an important skill after you join the workforce in any field.
Other challenges like the Community Challenge and the Enterprise and Employability Challenge help people work as a team and use time properly, and the Enterprise Challenge allows young people to learn how things work in the business word; the Global Citizenship Challenge gives us an opportunity to research cultures and different ways of life around the world.
The baccalaureate is an excellent qualification which allows students from varied backgrounds, with different strengths and weaknesses to thrive in certain aspects. It’s also fantastic as it gives opportunities to pupils who find regular academic courses like History, Maths or the sciences challenging, or those who struggle with course structures (i.e. learning, revising, taking exams). The Bac gives Welsh students an extra impetus on their UCAS forms and makes them stand out from the tens of thousands of other young people who are competing for university places every year. Although, I do think the Bac should be optional for students, because of the amount of time it takes to fulfil.
Normal gets you nowhere, so do something that sets you apart
For most people studying their A Levels in Wales, it has become normal for them to also study a qualification called the Welsh Baccalaureate. It feels like a long time ago that I was in the same position back in 2011. At the time, the Welsh Baccalaureate was a new qualification and I was in the first year in my school to take part in it. Although, the phrase ‘take part’ isn’t entirely apt as it was a compulsory course. I was advised by my school that the premise of the Welsh Baccalaureate would be to give students the same amount of UCAS points as an A grade at A level and that It would expand our communications and numeracy skills, with other opportunities to volunteer and work in teams. Whilst parts of this sounded appealing, I remember there being a feeling of resentment amongst my peers at the fact that we were being forced to study something that was unrelated to the A Levels that we had chosen to commit to. The various components of the Welsh Baccalaureate were all fairly straightforward and consisted of tasks such as writing a 2500word essay, doing a presentation, working in a group, taking a maths test and volunteering for 20 hours. The problem that I had with all of these exercises was that I had already been doing all of these things through my entire school career, and I was struggling to see how the qualification was providing me with any new skills.
Fast forward 7 years later and I’ve attained a Bachelors and Masters degree, worked in the fashion, property, education and broadcasting sectors and I’m still not sure how the Welsh Baccalaureate assisted me in all of that. Having achieved good A Level results, I didn’t need the Welsh Baccalaureate to get into University. Furthermore, not one employer has ever asked me about it, what skills were attained from it, or how my experience studying it could benefit their business. To me, this indicates two possibilities; that employers don’t know what the Welsh Baccalaureate is, or, that they do know what is and have concluded that it’s not a relevant qualification.
It’s a myopic and antiquated view to think that a generalised qualification is the answer to helping young people progress to the next stage of life. It’s a hot topic in the media that students are choosing to study degrees that don’t provide practical skills for the work place and that can actually hinder their careers. What’s often forgotten in all of this is the superseding stages to going to University. Perhaps young people would have a stronger sense of self and what they want from this world if they were really told to think more carefully about what they want to do from an earlier age. Whilst I agree that we shouldn’t be confined to a career path for the rest of our lives from the age of 16, I do think that that a non-committal attitude is perpetuated by generalised qualifications, including the Welsh Baccalaureate.
If the education system wants to help the young people of Wales, then they need to stop cramming compulsory, generalised courses down their throats. The logic that giving someone a qualification that everyone has, in order to help them to be relevant in a saturated jobs market is completely antiquated. If young people want to set themselves apart, they need to be using their own initiative to go out and contribute something to society that is in their own recognised field of interest. Schools should be encouraging students to go and set up ecommerce businesses, help non-profit companies or to go and explore the tech start-up industry.
Whoever said less is more was right; the less ambiguity within your career path and alignment to vague qualifications, the more attention you have to focus on what is really going on in the world and what you really want to do in it.