Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Dark Sarcasm In The Classroom

Early September comes along and I’m looking for a course to do this year. I look at the Part-Time degrees in the free booklet from the local University and find an advert for History of Art.

Right down my street, I think – only when I go on their website I discover that the advert in the booklet is wrong: the course is only available during the day.

Instead I opt for English Language & Culture – as language is another of my pet interests. I email the department for details and they respond with a request for application a.s.a.p. as the deadline has already passed. Bear in mind that I rang them less than two days after the booklet arrived through my door.

So I rush together some references and copies of recent certificates. I have no idea where my A Level English certificate is, but as this was taken in 1996 and the course description specifically states “no prior qualifications required” and only requests “evidence of previous study” as additional I assume my maths (taken in 2007) will be sufficient.

Not long afterwards I get an email saying that my application will only be considered upon proof of A Level and spend a hurried weekend trying to find the damn thing to no avail. I have to withdraw from the course – which is probably a good thing in general as there would be no way I could afford it financially.

What particularly galls me about this decision is that I have been desperately trying to find an evening course to improve and update my A Level – but the current system seems to be specifically discriminating against me.

I look on my local college website: but in the light of recent budget and funding changes they have drastically cut back on their evening courses – the only way I can do A level with them is to take time off during the day: something I am unable to do because of my job. This is because the emphasis on adult education has shifted onto getting people with few qualifications back into work. As a result lots of leisure courses (such as photography, creative writing, Tai-Chi and Advanced Karate Macramé) have either folded altogether or been forced to tack on points towards a degree in order to retain funding from the government.

So if you are already in full time work and want to improve or update your skills set you are unable to do so. Although some evening courses do offer points towards a degree they are all points at level 1. The only way to get level 2 & 3 points is to give up your job and go into full time education – presumably selling your house, car and anything else you may be working towards.

So I contact my old school, who used to do Adult Education – but they only do GCSE (the level below A Level) these days, as the colleges do the A Levels…

At the moment I am looking into distance learning: but the companies involved seem very reluctant to tell me their prices – they certainly don’t seem to advertise them on their websites…leading me to assume they are actively trying to dissuade custom. Also the nearest test centre appears to be 100 miles from me, which could cause a problem when I come to take the exam.

Meanwhile I am continuing to look into funding options for a degree, which I would love to do if only pesky bills didn’t get in the way…again I am not eligible for much of the funding available because I chose to go out and work for a living instead of being career unemployed (when you get everything for free)

The good news is that the mad Dutch woman who ran a class on life drawing a couple of years ago has emailed me to say she’s running a non-college course during October. Despite her infatuation with painting pictures of giant penguins I feel moved to support her independent non-qualifications stance and email back telling her to book me a place.


The Clandestine Samurai said...

Try here. I don't know if the site is international or not, but it's a source for money.

It's a bit difficult for me to grasp the status of the degrees you listed since the U.S. lists their degrees differently (Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's, etc.) But perhaps, after finding a way to get funding, you could move your days off to two weekdays, and pile all of your classes per semester into those two?

I would love to stop working and go back to school, but I don't have the money to do so and I'm prideful to do loans. I will though, one day.

raccoonlover1963 said...

I don't think I could deal with going back to school! I didn't do all that well in High School. I'm not stupid by any means, I'm just terribly lazy when it comes to homework and studying!
I also wanted to let you know that there is an award waiting for you at my blog, so, stop by and pick it up.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Samurai - thanks for the link. Looks hopeful. There are options for funding in the UK, but many of them shut you out if you are earning.

There are lots of different types of educational exams in the UK, but the main ones run as such: CSE (Certificate of Secondary Education) & GCSE (General CSE - higher than CSE) - these are the first ones you study at school dependent on your ability. Having gained GCSEs you then generally go on to A Level (Advanced) - then into university for BSc (Bachelor of Science), BA and MA (Bachelor & Master of Arts). We also have more work based qualifications, like NVQ (National Vocational Qualification)

The colleges are also launching something called OCN (Open College Network), but this has been with limited success and is not as recognised as NVQ.

My work doesn't allow me to change my days, so any studying would be in the evening. You should definately study as your posts suggest a very high intelligence

Lisa - study can be very hard and i know what you mean about homework. the only advantage with adult education is you can usually chose something that you already have an interest in.

PS: thanks for the award - will pop over

Pete McGregor said...

Aargh!! The frustration! But I can't help thinking it's the university that gave you the run-around that's losing most. You should be teaching the course on English Language & Culture, not paying them for it. OTOH, "those who can, do; those who can't, teach" (H.L. Mencken, who was also responsible for the wonderful definition of puritanism as "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, is having a good time")

Good luck with those giant penguins.

Lydia said...

A fascinating configuration there in your education system. Sounds complicated and certainly not worker-friendly in terms of advancing in your studies.

This discussion hits home with me. I completed two of the four years of college back in my real college days after high school. Wasn't focused and many etceteras. Married, put ex through law school, divorced. Worked to support myself. 15 years passed, married again and he understood my sense of incompletion. I returned to an adult completion program at a local university, a 22-month ordeal with classes in evening at a local site and some on Saturdays at the actual campus. It was a good program for me, as it was writing intensive. So I graduated with a BA in 1998, got an immediate rotation to a professional job where I was working and really enjoyed work for the first time in my life. Where I'm not "using" my degree here at home, I have never regretted completing it. My loan was for ten years, but I refinanced a few years ago to a lower % so it extends the time some. It's one bill I don't mind (especially since my refinance lowered the monthly installment).
You really COULD be teaching the course, I agree! However, I will keep a strong thought that the universe opens for you to realize your dream.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Hi Pete - they're trying to recruit young teachers here by offering grants to go and teach in schools when not fully qualified (you get the final teaching ones as you go) - and the advert is "those who can - teach". I love the quote about puritanism - very funny.

Lydia - thanks for the support and for sharing. My main problem is being on a single wage doesn't leave much for courses as my priority has to be doing up my house to move to a nicer area and make a future for me and my partner - but i'm hoping this will change at work as my new boss may be about to give me extra money...

Lydia said...

I certainly understand about the single income preventing you from funding school. I couldn't do it until I remarried, and even then, we were renting so didn't have the house imperatives you have and that we now have. I sure hope your boss comes through for you. I just have a feeling this is all going to work out for you! :)

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

I did look into teaching actually, but only adults.

The problems are:
1) You need a degree in your area of teaching
2) in order to get a qualification for teaching adults you generally already need to be teaching and need to find someone willing to take on unqualified teachers.

I continue to look...

Michael said...

Nice to see so many options for overcoming your obstacles. Something good will come.

I'm lucky. Found a creative writing class in a nearby city. Makes for along day of driving (and sitting), but I love it.

I invented my own course last year. Bought a book on grammar and had plans to sit down and read it every Thursday night, do the lessons, etc.
Never happened. Not quite enough discipline I guess.


Don't Feed The Pixies said...

michael - yes - teaching yourself sounds easy when you think about it, but i worry about having the dicipline too!

Jenny Bah said...

Oh this really sucks. I mean, they who want to study, should get that possibility, even if they work during the days. It should be a right to be able to study some even so. It seems to be a lot easier here to do so.
A woman in my peace-and development class last semester studied both full-time and worked full-time.

I can imagine that it must be really hard to get back to studies when you have worked for a while though. I think that I'll work part-time when I'm done with my studies so that I can take a master-degree after that or something, but we'll see about that. If I start working full-time I guess it will be hard to get back to school, cause then you are used to earn an amount of money...