Friday, August 30, 2019

Outstanding A-Level appeal

The A-Level programme offered by Cambridge University has become a popular alternative to the Plus-two programme for secondary education in Nepal. Started in Budhanilkantha School about three decades ago, the A-Level programme is now being offered by major institutions in the country and various reasons prod students to choose it over the Plus-two programme.

Taking students away from rote learning
Julen Pradhan, Marketing Manager of UK Qualifications at British Council Nepal, calls the choice of secondary education “part of a healthy system in education and society”. The main attraction of the A-level programme is in the “quality and type of learning”. Course design for A-Level subjects and the international recognition maintained by the programme appear to impart a number of benefits to the students who pursue this system.

Surendra Adhikari, who was A-Level Programme Coordinator at Xavier International College for eight years, explains, “The syllabus are designed in a way that take students away from the rote learning mentality and develop creatively and analytical skills.”

Adhikari describes A-Level education as “updated and contextual as they are updated yearly” and contrasts this with the traditional Plus two programme which maintains the same syllabus for years on end.

A-Level Programme Coordinator at the GEMS Institute of Higher Education (GIHE), Suraj Baral Explains that A-Level syllabus are designed in such a way that students cannot get high scores without thorough understanding of the subject matter.

“Questions are never repeated in the A-Level tests,” said Baral, who has been associated with the A-Level programme for the past 17 years. “They are designed to include analytical questions which cannot be answered without conceptual understanding of the topic.”

The A-Level programme “provides essential preparation for critical thinking at university,” according to Pradhan, who adds, “Its curricula is developed in collaboration with research at leading universities.”

Nineteen-year-old Animesh Basnet, who finished his A-Levels from GIHE last year, recalls himself going through two phases as he adapted to the A-Level system. “In the beginning of the first year, I wasn’t studying a lot and relied on notes given by teachers to prepare for exams as that method had worked during school,” he said. The method paid off poorly as he didn’t score good marks. He began putting in some work and realized “there is a lot of self-study involved, and your point of reference is not the textbook but the syllabus list. A lot of self-research goes into making sure you understand the topics involved.”

Adjusting to studies
A foundation in A-Level education also makes it easier for students to adjust to study in Bachelor’s and Master’s level as well, said Adhikari. “The course develops necessary academic skills, including critical thinking, which becomes essential in the higher levels of education, he said, “while A-Level students are equipped with these skills going into higher study, Plus-Two students often find themselves starting over in the Bachelor’s level environment.”

A-Level students can adapt easily to foreign courses as well, reflects Baral, as it reflects values similar to foreign courses in demanding critical and research skills as well as conceptual understanding through course structure. “As an education system with British background, it also makes English language proficiency tests like IELTS and TOEFL much easier for students,” he said.

The international recognition for A-Level education can also mean that Nepali Students are allowed to skip foundation courses when joining foreign colleges for Bachelor-level education, Baral states. He recalled a visit to Sunway University in Malaysia in 2017, where he found that Nepali students with A-Level background were allowed to immediately start their Bachelor-s degree course, while students with Plus-two background had to pursue a year of undergraduate studies, which is a foundation course before the start of Bachelor’s studies.


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Path to professional expertise

Ayushree Nepal, 19, finished her A-Level from GIHE last year with an eclectic choice of subjects, studying Biology with Management subjects like Business Studies and Economics. For Nepal, the flexibility of subject choice was the greatest advantage.

“A-Level education is rigorous and academically broad. I could gain knowledge on broadly differing subjects, and at the same time studying subjects form different fields opened the field for me to get into any of these subjects later in my Bachelor’s level,” she says.

Having made up her mind, she is planning to study International Relations in the US.

Pradhan says that the variety of subjects available in A-Levels “allow students to specialize in and begin a pathway to academic and professional expertise”.

Pradhan also points out the benefits gained by Nepali students from the English-medium programme.

Ashmita Dhakal, 20, also completed her A-Levels from Xavier International four years ago, and currently is studying BBA at KUSOM, while also tutoring A-Level students. She chose A-Level course because of a distance for rote learning, and found a different teaching-learning style in the system.

“There is no alternative to studying if you want good grades. Questions are posted in a roundabout way, designed to test your conceptual understanding of concepts,” she states, she finds herself better able to tackle analytical questions in class these days, and says that it’s an area where her Plus-two peers seem to be generally lacking.

Sachin Dangi, 19, completed his A-Level from Xavier International last year, joining the programme for its “subject content and teaching module. I wanted to stay in Nepal but did not want to compromise on my studies”

Currently studying BBA programme at King’s College, he finds that pursuing A-Levels gave him analytical skills to understand and explain course contents and notices an improved capacity in writing essays, a skill polished from the General Paper A-Level subject.

source: The Himalayan Times, Education Times, Thursday, February 14, 2019


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