On my college course, you start off in a diagnostic phrase where you explore different aspects of the course to help you decide what you would like to specialise in during second year for your eventual Final Major Project. I’m nearing the end of the diagnostic phase now, just yesterday having talks from alumni about their experiences doing the different specialities. On the particular course I take we can choose one of four to focus on, the four being Graphic Design, 3D, Fashion & Textiles or Fine Art. Right now I’m definitely leaning towards fine art, which gives you the most freedom to chase your own ideas rather than cater for a specific brief.
I still don’t have to decide for a little while yet, however it’s something that needs a lot of consideration because what I pick now could affect the university courses I can access (if I decide to go) once I finish college, again affecting careers I might eventually end up in. None of the options are particularly limiting my potential, just each offer me different paths of opportunities.
Anyway as I said I’m fairly certain I’ll take the Fine Art route, so I’m not particularly struggling with conflicting views on the specialities, but a part of me recognises how this seemingly minor choice is oddly major towards my future in education and work. That’s the scary bit, I think. In a way, you can do any profession if you end up changing your mind, but you end up having to redo things, going back to further your education later on in life. I have absolutely nothing against doing that, it gives you a wider variety of skill sets and experiences. However, the current education system (generally) relies on you knowing what you want to do with your life at a ridiculously young age. I think the first time I genuinely had to make decisions that would affect my further education and career opportunities was way back at only 14 years old, picking my GCSE options.
A lot of sixth forms require you to already have a GCSE in that subject before you can take it on as an A-level. For example if by the end of year 11 you realise you had taken subjects you ended up not actually being interested in, it isn’t as easy to steer it into a completely different pathway for sixth form/college, and if you are required to pick a specific number of subjects you genuinely might end up taking on something you know you are good at but really don’t want to do for the remainder of your life. At this point you’re already onto further education and if you do desire to go on to university, the courses you might actually have an interest in are ones that require A-levels that you don’t have simply because you didn’t have the GCSE to do it in the very first place. And now you see what I mean about the education system
Luckily enough there are ways to get around being trapped in this unfortunate cycle. Although my course is purely in art and design, it wasn’t a requirement to have any past education in art and design such as a GCSE to get a place on the course. Being the practical subject it is, your place was decided more on a portfolio you presented at your interview. Personally I think this is actually a very logical way of processing potential students, such as ones who have had an interest in art outside of school and have a portfolio built up simply from exploring art as a hobby. By putting so much importance on the portfolio it allows people with a strong talent for art that they may have only recently discovered to apply for the course, not just the ones who already liked it at 13.
I wish this kind of selection process could work for other subjects too, ones that are more academically based such as psychology or religious studies. It allows people to explore things they haven’t done before, things they are now interested in that maybe they were not 3 years ago. Your mind changes so much as a teenager it would be foolish to assume that you will still have the exact same subject interests a few years down the line. Often people do have specific passions, I knew I only wanted to do art by the end of year 11 and I had always loved it, however I had previously wanted to do subjects such as music and languages, which whilst both still seem interesting to me, I have no desire to make a career out of either.
Essentially I think the point I’m trying to make here (I’m not even sure myself about what I write these days, it just comes out and then I never know how to finish up the ramblings) is that kids are expected to know what they want to do with their lives so early on, its a tad unfair as it genuinely does trap some students into studying things that they end up having less and less interest in until it becomes something they don’t enjoy at all. It’s not impossible to avoid this situation however our current education system coerces students to take the fastest route to employment, placing them into the constantly moving conveyor belt of school and churning them out into the world of work.
So I think the most important thing to know is that if you are currently a student you shouldn’t be afraid to change your mind, because even if it isn’t convenient for the school board governors intent on rushing you on to the next level, if something is important enough to you, you will be able to pursue it. And if you really can’t get out of something specific you’re doing, there is absolutely nothing stopping you going back to study what you actually want to later on in life, and even if you do feel trapped right now, whether that be in a certain job or course or class, there will come a time when you can go back and do what really matters to you.