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The Dual Ended Coin: The light and the shade behind repeating GCE Advanced Levels

Monday, 12th of August 2019

The Advanced Level frenzy has taken over throughout the island, and students are adding the finishing touches on the ultimate pinnacle. 13 years of school education has led them to this final destination, and it is evident that every individual desires to make most of the knowledge that has been acquired. What follows the pinnacle, is just as dreaded as the pinnacle itself; the conundrum of “what’s next?”. The options are infinite. Some anticipate state university entry, some decide to seek private higher education while others envision to seek direct employment with available skills and qualifications.

Among these students with diverse ambitions, the notion that the results determine each respective future is predominant. A selection tends to repeat the exam, if the desired results arent’t achieved. It is important to weigh out the pro’s and cons of repeating Advanced Levels before making the decision. Lets consider the facts. Statistics show that 253,330 individuals have sat the GCE Advanced Levels for 2017. It was later identified that 22021 students have failed in all the subjects; that is 8.69% out of the entirety.

Failure is inevitable, and it should not be a cause for concern. Additionally, 163,104 candidates was granted university entry which is an impressive 64.38%. 8267 students (3.26%) received 3As but still failed to reach the anticipated Z-score requirement to get admission to a university. Insufficient marks and failure encouraged by the passion and determination to enter a state university motivates a student to repeat Advanced Levels. It’s always preferred to start a discussion by analyzing the positives. The main positive for a student’s mentality is the ‘experience’.

A student enters the examination with an invisible blindfold over their eyes. They have practice, that is evident; given the amount of past papers that have been written. Practice alone doesn't prepare a student to face the element of ‘pressure’ which is involved at the point where the student actually receives the exam paper. That acts as the advantage, when the same process is repeated. The student is well aware of the pressure, and additionally, the ability to manage time and answer each question by allocating the exact amount of time required is enhanced.

At this stage, a student has a heightened sense of responsibility. A student might have been carefree. As a result, the first attempt was not taken seriously. Once the results arrive, the individual is disheartened, since all his close associates passed well. They have potential to move forward, while the student feels as if he would be left behind. Realization hits when the epiphany that ‘it could have been me’ is properly realised. T hat urgency gives birth to a new sense of responsibility that motivates the individual to get into the preferred track and put maximum effort for the next attempt. Most private higher education institutes require minimum 3 simple passes to commence the degree.

Otherwise, the student has to sit for a certificate course which acts as the foundation level of expertise/ AL alternative. When a student repeats the exam, the chances of passing is greater than the previous attempt, and even receiving simple passes ensures brighter prospects. Lets admit it, 3 simple passes are so much better than 3 light posts. Private higher education is a luxury, and it comes with a colossal price. The charges that have to be incurred is a burden which a majority of Sri Lankan parents fail to bear. Most parents get indebted while they send their children off to luxurious private higher educational institutes.

As mentioned earlier, students have to face a certificate programme if the required 3S’s arent achieved. Lets assume that a parent somehow can manage the cost for the degree. These certification programmes do not come at a manageable price. The added cost will penalize the a l ready indebted parents. Therefore, even if a student wishes to seek private education, they will be able to stave off a ‘few thousand’ rupees off the aggregate amount to be paid, if Advanced Levels are repeated to achieve 3S’s. Lets march forwards to the ‘lessbrighter’ shady nature of repeating Advanced Levels.

Economic students are well aware of the ‘opportunity cost’ which dictates the loss of benefit that has to be incurred about selection of an alternative. A student has to allocate an entire year out of his/her life to face an exam which has already been faced. This is precious time which could be used to enhance a potential career, or seek alternative means of education. Much can be achieved during a year. From starting a business to seeking a freelance self employment scheme based on existing talents, the opportunities are in abundance, and thus the opportunity cost is immense.

The pros and cons of state university admission is an entirely different matter, but for the sake of the argument, it is best to mention that a student can achieve further progress in quick time, compared to the long duration taken for university entry/ graduation. Ironically, the cost factor involved act as an advantage as well as a disadvantage. The cost of the degree was addressed beforehand. Here, the focus is brought for the cost for tuition. In the first attempt, students are sent for mass-classes. That itself is a significant cost, since tuition fees of reputed lecturers are at average over Rs.1500. Massclasses were the trend for the first attempt. Once the child fails due to mass-classes, some parents are inclined to seek individual tutoring to complement classes for theory, revision and past paper classes.

Each of these additional classes come with individual cost elements. Additionally, individual classes normally charge twice as much as an average tuition class, and that too is only if the tutor feels generous. Comparing the cost for a degree, and the charges taken for tuition, it is beneficial to pay a set amount which spans throughout the duration of the programme rather than pay consistent hefty amounts at a single sitting. State University entry is not a guarantee, no matter how many attempts are taken. Taking a student who has missed entry by a mediocre margin into consideration, that student is not promised entry in his second, or third attempt.

The student has already achieved exceptional results. Consider the opportunities that were up for grabs, while he/she was busy focusing on a wild goose chase? Furthermore imagine the humility if the second attempt results where inferior than the results that he has already achieved? That is considered as a waste of effort, time, potential and money. The state university dream is for a noble cause, that much is evident. However, it is best if an individual comprehends that dream is not suited for everyone. There is life beyond state universities, and one should not be fixated only on one opportunity. That is not to discourage the dream but to merely give a nudge towards reality. Analyzing the pros and cons shows that the pros are in abundance, but the weightage behind the cons are more significant. Parents and students should consider these facts during the anxious wait for results since it is best remain prepared for the inevitable.

Randheer Mallawaarachchi

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