I WAS disgusted to read how students taking A-levels in media studies are being blacklisted by some educational institutions (‘Students counting on maths to get good job’, Echo, January 31).
I have an A-grade GCSE in the subject and a joint-honours degree with a 2:1. I have gone on to be “one of Britain’s foremost exporters of online community and e-learning research to the USA and mainland Europe” according to Incisive Media, and have become a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts for my Emotivate Project of increasing social change through multimedia education (www.emotivate.org.uk). Media studies certainly hasn’t done me any harm.
An Oxbridge academic called my degree a “Mickey Mouse” degree. I call their degrees “Betty Boop” degrees. Mickey Mouse is as relevant to our economy as when he was in black and white, yet Betty Boop has been replaced by more sophisticated animated adult cartoons.
They say people with media studies degrees can only hope to work in McDonald’s – I’m a director of three limited companies. But what about Oxbridge graduates? Maybe someone on their “classics and oriental studies” degree can hope to work in a topnotch Chinese restaurant in Dursley? Maybe a graduate of their “sexuality” degree could be given a scholarship to do a PhD by doing a photo-ethnography on the Avenue in New York? The truth is, a media studies degree has far more practical use than any Oxbridge degree, with the exception of those with professional relevance like law or engineering, for which their tutorial systems produce better elite professionals than most other universities without this are able to.
When I was doing the Teaching in Schools and Colleges module at the Univeristy on my MSc in E-Learning I had the opportunity to observe children with Sepcial Educational Needs in both IT supported and traditional environments.
In this one lesson I saw a SEN pupil make a spelling mistake. It was underlined in red and they clicked the right button and selected the wrong word. The teacher, corrected their mistake – thinking they used the wrong word rather knowing what I knew that they actually selected the wrong word from the spelling check menu
Then the other day I installed Google Toolbar for a family member with dyslexia who was educated before the Conservative introduced the Education Act requiring statementing and before a backbench Labour MP brought forward the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act.
What I saw gave me a great idea which I would like someone to do research on to prove or refute my hypothesis.
The family member with dyslexia click the spell check button and things highlighted red and they selected the correct spelling and it went green.
My idea is to develop special software for people who have difficulties in spelling due to visual processing difficulties such dyslexia or chromosome issues such as Down Syndrome for example, to do this:
The spelling mistake is highlighted in red to suggest negative feedback. Using a ‘context aware agent’ the person with the spelling difficulties would by trial and error correct the spelling until they get the right one. The correct spelling would then be highlighted in green and a ‘ping’ sound would go off as positive reinforcement so they are more likely to remember the correct spelling. This is based on what education and learning authority Dr Genene Stubbs taught me on my CBL/E-learning modules on my HND, BSc(Hons), MSc degrees between 2000 and 2004 and an application of the education theory of language training authority Michel Thomas, who said people are more likely to learn from mistakes they make that rote learning.
To explain to you what I mean. If you install Google Toolbar in your browser if you don’t have it already:
Type some spelling mistakes into the status field on Facebook or other text box on any other site, then click the ‘Tick-A’ spell checking button and you will see their spelling mistakes go red. When you select the correct one from the right-click menu it goes green.
What I’m saying is that instead of allowing the right-click-menu to be used, the person will spelling difficulties changes it by trial and error until they get it right. It is then highlighted in green and makes a ping to make the SEN fell good and clever, so much so that it gives them so much confidence they think they can do anything.
I haven’t got time to develop this, but if other have got the time to do it, then I will make this idea open source providing my moral rights to be identified as the inventor are respected.
People are always saying to me ‘not everyone can have a degree, as some people have to do the menial work’. I don’t see the two as mutually exclusive – my best friend’s girlfriend has a degree – a 2:1, and she’s enjoying spending time with him, her family and friends, with no worry and responsibility, doing a customer service job at Sainsbury’s. Many people pity her, but I am proud of her. She’s not like other people who would turn their nose up at a job because they don’t think someone with a degree should be doing that sort of work.
Shouldn’t say this I know, but if it wasn’t for the Second World War, which gave women the chance to work for the first time, the determination of the Suffragettes, to set into action a chain over events which made her the humble, determined with a strong work ethic, she could be stuck at home now, jobless, without a Higher Education, with the only thing to do being to tidy her house and watch TV. Some people may still be in this position today, and content with it – but if they’re not, then they need to know that in my egalitarian society there would be a way out:
A surgeon can be paid £125,000 a year, and a taxi-driver a lot less. The doctor is richer that the taxi driver. However, the taxi driver has experienced the world though other people’s daily lives, the surgeon just the end of a cold scalpel. The surgeon may be information and monetary wealthy, and the taxi driver poor, but…
Take a look at this degree at the University of Glamorgan where I graduated from.
We all know that every taxi driver has a novel in them. In my ‘egalitarian society’ the low paid taxi driver (with few qualifications and responsibilities) would still be a low paid taxi driver, the high paid surgeon (with lots of qualifications and experience) would still be a high paid surgeon, due to market forces. BUT, some of the tax they pay could be given to the taxi driver, so if they wanted they could get this degree from Glamorgan, as it may be that the only thing stopping them writing that novel bursting with energy inside. They could then go back to being a taxi driver, doing the job they love, ignoring all the snobs who say ‘why are you a taxi driver if you have a degree?’ and get working on his next novel.
The Tories plan to make teaching elitist if they are ever elected to government. As a co-operator who believes in choice I think all schools should have only the best teachers and the choice of school should be based on other factors.
All too often choice is too much focussed on the ‘best schools’ with the ‘best teachers’ with the ‘best students’. I’d like to see choice based more on what the school offers, such as whether they provide after school clubs specialising in music, IT, science, etc. or the particular help they are able to offer people with behavioural difficulties, disabilities or other special educational needs.
When people choose a mobile phone they don’t only consider whether their friends recommend it or whether a magazine says it’s the best on the market, but also a number of other factors, such as its features and the applications it runs. Choosing a school should be similar; it should not only be its reputation that is consider, but also whether it offers the experience that meets the needs of the user.
They say we are learning from cradle to grave. Some people have greater opportunities to learn than others. The State should create more equitable distribution of learning resources through introducing individual learning funds for children and all UK citizens.
For me as a co-operator, I recognise the importance of the market in enabled adults to make choices for them and their children based on their individual attitudes and values. There are sometimes barriers to the market that some people in difficult circumstances face. People with low incomes, people with disabilities, people with low skills.
The government should set up for children and adults who are contributing or who want to contribute to the British economy, ‘National Learning Assurance Accounts’. When a child reaches school age the government would put money in at regular intervals. Children with disadvantaged backgrounds such as low income or disability would have more put in. Schools and other State-sanctioned education providers could then draw on this to provide the child’s compulsory education. It could replace child benefit and child tax credit and parents could draw on it to provide for the maintenance of their child.
As the child gets older money could be put in if they choose to go to sixth-form, college, etc, which they could draw on for tuition fees and maintenance. The same for university, though the funds may be drawn from the Student Loans Company if appropriate. In all cases students from low income backgrounds and who have disabilities would get extra funds to support them, as they do now.
When they are in the workplace and are faced with redundancy money could be put in so they could re-skill. If they’ve been unemployed for a specific period money could be put in to pay for the training they need. If they’re working they could put some of their pre-tax income as a replacement for CITB if they’re in the construction industry or as an education equivalent of National Insurance.
The important part of these NLAAs would be choice. For parents to choose how their children are educated, and for adults to choose what they want to gain knowledge and skills for.
The comments of Tory education spokesman William Graham that degree-level exams should be about recalling facts (BA students set their own exam questions, Western Mail, June 30) shows just how out of touch the Conservatives are with education.
I also take issue with his suggestion that Dr Reddy of the University of Wales, Newport is wrong to pilot a new method of setting exams.
As a recent graduate, I believe that degree-level exams should be less about recalling knowledge and more about assessing the skill of the student at tackling the problem posed in the exam question. Therefore it shouldn’t matter whether students know the questions, it should be more about whether they know how to answer them.
Dr Reddy is right that the current method of lecturers dropping hints to students of exam questions is flawed. It discriminates against students with impairments such as autism, as they often don’t have the ability to pick up the subtle clues from the lecturers. Dr Reddy‘s scheme is fair and appropriate, as it favours not the students that cram the night before the exams, but those who have developed analytical skill throughout the course.