The ABC of Generation Z: Educating the Future

In recent weeks, several articles have caught our eye regarding the impending ascension of "Generation Z"; the demographic of our population born after Millennials that are starting to come of age. These texts bring to light the crucial and divergent idiosyncrasies of this generation, a group of people who grew up in the digital age not knowing what life was like before the Internet and mobile technology. With these environmental factors being so markedly different from those of any other generation before, the following question arises: how can - and should - the status quo be adapted to accommodate the next generation? This question is no less pertinent when it comes to education...

 Image:  Sh!ft, Disruptive Learning

Image: Sh!ft, Disruptive Learning

As a generation perpetually connected and innately digital, the analogue style of teaching practiced by many teachers and professors may be out of touch. In a post on his blog (Learning with 'E's) titled Generation Next, education consultant and lecturer Steve Wheeler notes: "It makes sense to help students to engage more deeply in their university studies using the technology with which they are familiar. Lecturers who ignore the potential of personal technology and rely solely on traditional methods will miss an important lever for engagement." His point is echoed in a Guardian article, Generation Z is starting university - but is higher education ready? , where the incoming classes are described as "industrious, collaborative and entrepreneurial learners". In light of their uniqueness, the article calls for an increase in collaborative processes and an emphasis on co-creation in order to assimilate Gen Zers into the current world of higher education. The Huffington Post have also dedicated column inches to the topic, with their blog post Start Prepping Now - Generation Z is En Route also offering suggestions on to how best to incorporate this group of individuals, but this time into the workforce. One such suggestion is to replace traditional corporate hierarchies with more linear structures; so that instead of having managers and departments, employees work together on team-based projects. Again, an emphasis on collaboration and connectivity.

While the specific impacts of Generation Z's inclusion in higher education and the workforce remain to be seen, we can be certain that the shakeup will be seismic. This is not to be feared, but embraced. The UK's shortage of tech-savvy and STEM-centric students and workers, for example, will no doubt be buoyed by Gen Zs coming of age. What are your thoughts on the notion?

The Perks of Being a Private Tutor

Being a private tutor can be a wonderful career path, with a fulfilling premise in helping others and also boasting many unique perks. Here are our top five:

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You can manage your schedule to fit your life. Only available to work weekday nights and weekend days? No problem. We will offer you tuition jobs that occur during these times. Want extra hours during holidays? We'll make sure to let you know when holiday-time requests come up. Private tutoring is one of the few careers that enables you to work at your own pace, according to your own timetable.

You'll meet an array of different students, parents and families along your journey, with whom you may form lasting relationships that may offer up further opportunities or benefits of their own. Additionally, as a practising private tutor you will have to exercise your skills in not only teaching, but also problem-solving, patience, punctuality, presentation, communication and other client-facing responsibilities.

Assisting others with aspirations to achieve can be an extremely gratifying role. You'll be an invaluable source of support and knowledge, often working towards set goals such as GCSE exams or entrance interviews, where tangible improvements can be made. It won't always be easy - the best private tutors tailor their techniques to each individual, according to their respective strengths and weaknesses - but that just increases the level of fulfilment one can gain from such work.

Private tutoring is just as much about learning as it is about teaching.Working with students keeps you informed of current syllabi, up-to-date with best teaching techniques and constantly practising your speciality subjects. As time goes on, so too do developments in academia; your knowledge will continue to grow alongside them. Additionally, you'll adapt to each student and get to know each of their respective schools or institutions - further adding to your specialist knowledge and what you can take away about the world of education.

If you commit yourself to private tutoring, you will reap all of the benefits listed above and also be able to earn a highly competitive annual salary. Career private tutors can earn upwards of £40,000 a year. The personal, flexible nature of the role coupled with the importance of education means that your job as a private tutor is not only in demand, but also highly valued.

If you would like to work with Aspire Academics as a private tutor, you can apply online now.

Book Review: The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

Eleanor Catton's second novel, The Luminaries, is a mammoth undertaking - both for the author and her readers: the book amounts to 832 pages. Catton won the Man Booker Prize 2013 for it (becoming the youngest author and the longest book ever to do so). It is, indeed, well worth taking the odyssey; one that transports readers to nineteenth-century New Zealand and a mystical mystery that will leave you gripped.

One of the most enduring features of this work is Catton's depictions of the multiple protagonists at play: characters are rendered in sparkling clarity going several layers deep. When introduced to a new character, we are often given at least one or two whole pages of analysis regarding their outward and inward character. Her descriptions are so intricate that these people virtually walk out of the pages and into our psyche with such formidable realness. The story itself is centred so strongly around this group of people, and takes place over so much time and so many pages, that this is naturally one of the most impressive, enjoyable facets of the book - and perhaps a necessity too, but one that is well executed.

If you are searching for summer literature that will whisk you away, keep you intrigued and provide beautiful prose to stimulate your imagination, then look no further.

How to Ace an Interview: 5 Case Studies from Interviewers & Interviewees

Interviews can be stressful and intimidating. The more important the interview, the greater the pressure to perform. The basic truth of interviews is that they are subjective and unpredictable in that a lot rides on the interviewer and whether they have a predetermined idea of who it is they are looking to hire/admit to their institution. There are, however, some fundamental tips that any interviewee should acknowledge to give yourself the best possible chance of success. Here are our top five, with case study examples from a handful of our friends and colleagues:

Never underestimate the importance of eye contact! Acknowledging the interviewer is crucial. Not only does making and holding eye contact mean that the interviewer must pay attention to you (and show that you're paying attention to them), but it also means that you are more likely to be remembered in the hours, days or even weeks after your meeting - and during which time the all-important decision whether to accept/hire you is made.

case study #1:

"Although I see so many prospective tutors in any given week, there's quite a personal nature to interviews - sitting one-on-one with someone presenting themselves to work with you - means that any break of eye contact or lull in conversation makes quite a big impact on your perception of the interviewee." So says one of our Aspire Academics prospective tutor interviewers, Leila (29), who knows a thing or two about what it takes to impress at interview stage.

Continuing on from the point above: manners will take you miles. Shake hands, wait to be seated, thank them for their time - all these things add up to paint a picture, an impression of you as a person who will either become an ambassador for an institution or a colleague that people have to work with.

CASE STUDY #2:

Tom (32), who works for a tech startup in Shoreditch, London, claims that even in some of the more relaxed environments of Silicon Roundabout, the rule of golden manners still stands:  "It may seem obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people miss out on the easiest boxes to check at interview stage. I've had people rush out and not say bye, or rush in and not wait for me to get sorted. There's a particular ceremonialism to interviewing that you definitely want [the interviewee] to acknowledge and appreciate."

Try and make the conversation as two-way as possible. Interviewers don't want to feel like they're pulling teeth and by contributing fruitfully to the exchange, you will exhibit confidence and independence. It also gives you the opportunity to show off your personality beyond the prescribed script, make you stand out from other interviewees and allow you to add any other relevant points/references/thoughts/stories that they may not otherwise ask you about directly. So, make sure to elaborate when being asked a question - monosyllabic responses just won't do.

CASE STUDY #3:

At her Cambridge interview to study undergraduate Philosophy, Fiona (26) was asked about the philosophers she had learnt about at school. "I mentioned that we had studied Plato amongst a few others, but when the interviewer asked whether we had read The Republic I simply said 'yes' and gave no further comment on it. There was a noticeable pause in which I think she expected me to develop the conversation regarding the text give some sort of insight into my views on the theories Plato wrote about in it - but I sort of froze... it definitely did not reflect well on my capacity for independent thinking, nor my ability to critically assess or recount ideas in a confident way that is so important in higher education, especially at Cambridge."

In order to answer some of the questions that will inevitably centre around you - your strengths, weaknesses, ambitions, achievements - make sure to have a firm grasp of what it is you're bringing to the table and what it is you represent. Reviewing these aspects of your identity allows you to answer questions without hesitation and present the most assured version of yourself.

case study #4:

Cameron (36), who works in public relations for a music production company, is tasked with interviewing prospective new employees for his department. He says: "I like to ask people questions about their past experiences: what have you done that you're most proud of? When have you felt most under pressure? The worst is when candidates have absolutely nothing to offer up. I appreciate that it's hard to think on the spot, so I would definitely advise thinking over your own personal attributes and experiences before coming to an interview."

Do your homework regarding the company/institution you're interviewing for. Know some key facts about what they do that stands out from everyone else. Ask yourself why it is you are applying there specifically - if your answer is simply that you were applying to every potential place then you must prepare an answer that delves deeper, one that can impress the interviewer.

case study #5:

When Stephanie (23) was applying for a jobs at architectural firms in London, she made sure to familiarise herself with the work of each studio she applied to. This paid off in every one of her interviews, no less the job she finally accepted. "The interviewers (and my current colleagues) were really impressed with my knowledge of their recent projects, especially when I was able to discuss ideas of where the company portfolio could expand based on their particular style and USP."

Exam Day 101

You've (hopefully) spent months preparing for these exams and that alone can be a cause for stress, as pressure coupled with expectation crescendos towards this very moment. John Donne claimed "no man is an island" but the overwhelming feeling of the exam hall is quite to the contrary.  In this very moment you find yourself surrounded by peers, teachers and familiar faces all at a distance; everyone is in this alone. This may be an intimidating introduction, yet the best way of dealing with situations like these is through knowing what lies ahead as much as possible so that you're not tripped up by them on the day. We've all been through it all and with these experiences to hand, here are our top tips for being your best you on exam day.

FIRST | GATHER YOURSELF THE NIGHT BEFORE

A simple, obvious suggestion - but a good starting point nonetheless. Avoid fussing over details on exam day: have your bag packed with the correct stationary ready, prepare your clothes, get yourself a watch to sit on your desk/wrist and arrange your breakfast the night before. Wake up feeling like nothing is required of you before you sit at your desk, with nothing but the subject in question on your mind.
 

SECOND | PHYSICAl stimulation = MENTAL FOCUS

Once sat down, make sure you're at your most alert by following a simple series of physical "exercises" that have been claimed to stimulate the brain. Even if these were, scientifically, to have no real effect or seem rather trivial, using them as a placebo is just as beneficial - remember that anything that gets you into the zone or believing you are at your peak performance level is key. Here are a few that have helped us through the years: 

  • Stretch tiredness out of your limbs: place one elbow over your head and push down with your other hand, massage the soft tissue in your hands to get them ready for constant exertion, apply pressure to your temples, brow and cheeks to wake up your face, and pull downwards on your earlobes to engage the brain (this last one has also been claimed to be linked with improved memory).
  • Loosen your neck by slowly turning your head from left to right, up to down - you'll have it tilted downwards for several hours and can avoid getting aches this way.
  • Take deep, 3 second breaths in through your nose, hold for 3 seconds and exhale for 3 seconds through your mouth as you do the above - this gets oxygen flowing to all the right places for maximum focus.

 

third | Read the questions carefully, answer them purposefully

'Purposefully' means with an intention to score marks. We've repeated this piece of advice on numerous occasions because it is so very crucial and yet somehow underestimated. Here's what we've said previously on this point that applies completely to exam day: as students, how many times are you told to do this? Countless. As an examiner composing the questions, the answer precedes the question. Consequently, as an exam taker, read the question carefully to consider what answer the examiner is looking for. Often (and depending on the subject) exams are marked according to a positive mark scheme, where mentioning specific 'key words' in your answer will gain you points and absence of these key words mean you don't score as high. At other times, clues can be found in the wording of the question itself.
 

Fourth | stuck? don't panic

If you find yourself stuck on a question, either because you don't understand it or because you simply don't know enough to answer it, do not panic. Panic simply wastes time and blocks your ability to power through the situation, which is inevitably what you must do. If this is an essay subject, a few easy marks may rely on facts that should be included in your answer (dates, names etc) but if you can't remember these or didn't study up on the topic, there are plenty of other (arguably more crucial) marks on offer that you can score by discussing your way through concepts introduced in the question. Even a little trick such as referencing phrases included in the question from time to time shows the examiner that you are on track, directly responding to the question set, and gives the impression of someone who knows what they are talking about. If the subject is scientific/mathematic, showing your intention or 'working out' scores you marks even if the eventual answer is wrong - examiners are looking for intent and attempted methodology, not just correct answers. Instead of panicking, therefore, accept that certain marks have been lost and that you can still give a successful answer in spite of this.
 

fifth | do you!

It's so easy to allow yourself to be distracted by whatever else is going on in the exam hall. It could be your neighbouring examinee with a bad cold constantly blowing their nose or nervous friends who frequently leave the room on a bathroom break. It could even be the invigilator pacing up and down the rows of desks. Forget it, forget it all. It's hard to do, but essential, and once you let go of your immediate surroundings and immerse yourself in the paper directly in front of you, you will really be able to harness your full potential. Ultimately, that is what an exam is all about - doing your best, trying your hardest.
 

Wishing you all the very best of luck!

Book Review: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

"There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed… On an autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman knocks at the door of a grand house in the wealthiest quarter of Amsterdam." And so begins Jessie Burton's tale of a young provincial protagonist, newly married to a distant and elusive man of more than twice her age, as she navigates her new life from the secret-saturated shadows of her husband's canal-side mansion. The catalyst for the story's plot is her wedding gift - a miniature version of her very (new) house, an exact shrunken replica honouring every little detail seen before her very eyes. It is both enchanting and menacing. To furnish the empty doll house, Nella engages in a dialogue with the mysterious miniaturist whose beautifully-crafted effigies seem to hold a power over the plot like the pieces in a particularly ominous game of chess.

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This debut is marvellous and an absolute pleasure to read. The prose is intricate and the sentences are often beautiful, while the reading is easy with writing so concise and yet imbued with meaning. Your eyes will flow steadily and greedily through the text, lapping up the richness of the atmosphere, the people - all woven together with words that paint an image of a very specific and evocative time and place. Burton's story unfolds against a golden-age Amsterdam. It is an age of Dutch nautical prowess, Calvinism, female domesticity, capitalist profligacy, art and craftsmanship - all interwoven into the story, a history lover's dream. The characters are captivating and so at odds with each other, yet all somehow sharing the same roof and, eventually, facing a fate that brings them together as family more than co-habituation ever could.

All of these factors often conspire together to earn the book 'hard-to-put-down' status, as we the reader escape into this reticent world and embark on a journey alongside Nella, our sympathetic companion; the good-intentioned teenager thrust into a world of adult secrets. Happily, this book review concludes that The Miniaturist is highly recommended - add it to your reading list for a dose of adventure and intrigue coupled with superb story-telling.

Summer 11+ Course at Aspire Academics, Kensington

What better way to kick off a new school year than with a confidence-boosting preparatory course that is both fun and intensive? Our Summer 11+ Course takes place this August, spread across 3 days, and is an extensive experience of the 11+ at the most competitive level, using both new and traditional teaching methods, interactive workshops and individual sessions. Our engaging tutors break down the 11+ into bite-size chunks, introducing girls to the fundamentals of exam preparation. This course is also a great means of exploring how private tuition for 11+ preparation could work for your daughter on a one-to-one basis.

The course takes place at our headquarters in Kensington; a spacious, architect-designed hub that serves as a stimulating and highly functional setting. Students will leave feeling confident and clear about the 11+, with revision materials and personalised revision plans to focus their work in the months to come. We endeavour to make the experience both enjoyable and highly productive.
 

WHAT TO EXPECT

There are 8 spaces available on the course. Numbers are kept low to ensure every single participant receives individual attention and care. Throughout the three days girls will work in groups and be tutored individually. Dates are TBC, please enquire below for more details.

As part of the course schedule, which will be emailed to parents upon reserving a place, all subject topics will be revised using interactive learning tools. On the second day, all girls will apply what they have learnt and sit mock exam papers under strict simulated exam conditions. This is an important part of the course and an invaluable experience as we appreciate that no amount of private practice can prepare for the intensity and stress of timed exam conditions with other candidates.
 

TUTORS

Aspire Academics' own experienced tutors will be conducting the course in full. Together, they have a combined background of successfully assisting girls with entrance to Latymer Upper, Godolphin and Latymer, Notting Hill and Ealing High School and South Hampstead High School. Drawing on this record and understanding of the 11+, the team at Aspire have created original assessment documents and never-before-seen literature that will be used during this course, including as mock exam papers.


SUPPORT

Each attendee will receive a personalised completion pack, including a detailed report on their performance (including their marked exam papers) plus an academic assessment section outlining study areas that should be focused on in the time remaining before the 11+ proper. Extra original test materials and study exercises are also included. Additionally, the team will be on hand in the weeks after completion of the course for any advice or queries that attendees may require or have.


FEES

The total cost for attending the three day course and receiving related study materials and support is £295 per attendee. A 30% deposit is required upon booking and places are filled on a first come, first served basis. For more information and reservation enquiries, please contact us by clicking below.

Date for the Diary: The 11+ Conference, 1st April 2015 at London's Nutford House

Aspire Academics is delighted to support the upcoming 11 Plus Conference presented by The National Tutoring Conference, an organisation that runs events bringing tutors, teachers, students and parents together to discuss the UK education industry. This is an opportunity to discuss topics pertinent to the future of the 11 plus and provides a platform for discussion and debate involving examiners, teachers, head teachers and education industry experts in the area of the 11 plus.

The 11 Plus Conference takes place at Nutford House, University of London, Brown Street, W1H 5UL on Wednesday 1st April 2015 from 1pm to 4pm. Confirmed speakers and topics are as follows:

The sciences and humanities, is the 11 plus too limiting in what it tests and prepares pupils for?
Harry Mount, The Telegraph

The Kent 11 plus test was changed to make it less susceptible to coaching. What happened next?
Peter Read, Kent Advice

Fairness of pupil premium priority at lower scores in "tutor-proof" tests or tests that examine innate ability.
Marc Maclaine, Tutorfair

When education is reduced to astonishing absurdity.
Dr Chris Ray, Reporting Inspector, Independent Schools Inspectorate and Member of the UK International Education Council

Are there advantages to private primary school education for the 11 plus?
Dee Francken (www.deefrancken.com)

Comment from Philip Alexandre, Touch-type Read and Spell

Contact: Cleo Watson | Tel: 07870559780 | Email: info@nationaltutoringconference.co.uk
The fulagenda and schedule for the event can be found at www.nationaltutoringconference.co.uk. They'll also be Tweeting about it in the run-up via the hashtag #11Plus, so do have a look on Twitter too. If you are interested in attending, tickets may still be available via the website and the event is raising money for the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust.

Private Tuition: How It Works

It's simple and easy to secure great private tuition with Aspire Academics. We get asked how the process works all the time, so here is our 3-step guide to how we operate:

We aim to provide a friendly, no-fuss service from the outset. The best way to get in touch is through our online form, which asks you for all the crucial information that we use to work on your request. When making an inquiry into private tuition, the more information you give us the better: we need to know things like subjects, level of study, your preferred times and days for meeting, plus your location to establish which tutors can travel to your area. You will automatically be assigned an Aspire Academics team member to deal with your enquiry and they'll stick with you throughout.

Depending on the amount of hours you are looking to book, costs are worked out at this initial stage to ensure complete transparency moving forward. We offer scaled discounts for advance bookings of 5 hours or more and are always willing to discuss your financial requirements.

After getting in touch and giving us your details, we move onto Step Two. This sees us take care of selecting the best tutor for you. We've interviewed each and every tutor in person, meaning they all come with our personal recommendation and have been fully vetted - all of our tutors possess DBS certificates as standard.

We contact a selection of the best-matched tutors for the role and once their availability is confirmed, we let you know as soon as possible - we aim to do this within one working day and to never take longer than two. You will then be sent the corresponding Tutor Profile, which outlines the proposed tutor's academic background and teaching experience for your information. You will also be sent our T&Cs to see exactly how we operate once your tuition commences. If you decide to book a discounted block of 5 hours or more, you will be sent a booking confirmation. 

With your preferred times and days in mind a first session is set-up, where you are able to discuss your requirements and aims further with the tutor, and even begin tuition right away. The more information given prior to this date, the more you can get out of this first session!

Once you've met your private tutor, you'll be fully underway! Schedules are worked out with your Aspire Academics team member and these can be flexible or rigid based on your own needs. Throughout this time you will be able to liaise with your Aspire Academics team member for any further queries, such as rescheduling or cancelling appointments. We also love to get feedback, so welcome you to let us know how everything is going along the way.

Lessons are added up and charged on a monthly basis: we invoice clients on behalf of all of our tutors at the start of each calendar month.

If you have any questions or would like to pursue private tuition, please click here. We look forward to hearing from you!

Classroom Maths vs. Maths for Everyday Life

Did you ever question the purpose of learning (seemingly) complex algebraic formulae at GCSE? When Maths gets hard, it's easy to question the relevance of what we are being taught and, above all, the significance it plays in our everyday lives. This sentiment is given credence because, even now, very little has been done to connect the dots between Maths in the classroom and Maths in real life. As we grow older, however, the importance of basic mathematic and - more precisely - economic aptitude becomes apparent almost overnight and, with hindsight, can seem overwhelmingly neglected in our earlier years. You may have found yourself a blissfully ignorant school pupil one day, a university-goer with a 3% interest on your student loan and the necessity for budgeting and financial planning the next. It has been left to parents to instil financial responsibility in young adults and yet many parents have less knowledge on the subject than required or else do not spend enough time discussing it. The most pertinent question becomes: why haven't we been taught basic personal finance, such a fundamental aspect of adult life?

There have been a few arguments against institutionalised teaching of financial literacy, with some stating that there aren't enough teachers (like parents) who themselves understand the subject. Others state that it should be deemed a subjective topic with consequently risky implications for teaching at school. These points, however, are not deal-breakers, they are manageable - especially if the Government were to push forward with making it part of the National Curriculum. In America, the Council for Economic Education recently launched Math in the Real World, a program that seeks to integrate maths with economics and personal finance through basic lessons aimed at secondary school children. The lessons cover skills such as annual percentage rate (APR) and interest that pertain to real-life situations through more academic (and probably familiar) mathematical concepts, such as graphing and formulas. Math in the Real World is a software tool that guides teachers in the subject, providing the lessons for adaptation and enabling them to keep track on student progress. As such, it is an excellent initiative and the UK would benefit from looking to it as a model for how to implement financial responsibility through academia.

To develop the idea further, here is a list of several basic topics that could and should be addressed in financial literacy aimed at school children:

  1. Credit Scores (and how they are calculated)
  2. Profit (Net, Gross and Maximisation)
  3. Cash Flow
  4. Compounding Interest
  5. Banking Products (and, like your mobile network service provider, how to get the best deal or when to switch bank)
  6. The Psychology of Money (Budgeting, Savings and Personal Financial Planning)

If initiatives were taken to ensure that young adults leave school equipped with information on the above, it is highly likely that a larger percentage of our growing, economically active population would remain out of debt and making their money account both for more and for longer.

Planting Roots for STEM Subjects

It is safe to assert that Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics subjects have received heightened attention in recent years. This area of academia has been brought to the fore by key educational figures and institutions alike, as the trend in studying humanities and arts subjects was seen to threaten the value of left-brain qualities and, through this, economic growth. More than two years ago now, the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee found that the Government's Plan for Growth in the economy relied directly on education and hi-tech industries, and that immediate action was needed to produce higher calibre graduates in these fields. Cue the crusade to reinvest in STEM subjects.

Last November, for example, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan established the "Your Life" campaign with the aim of increasing the number of UK teenagers opting to study maths and science by 50% within three years. According to Morgan, STEM subjects are far more useful in securing a wider range of jobs than the humanities and arts. Her comments generated criticism, with the sentiment in the offended camp being that "downgrading the arts is the wrong message" - a valid point indeed. In addition to this general issue of uptake, there is the blinding discrepancy between genders in STEM education and employment: only 13% of the UK's STEM workforce are female. Cue initiatives such as the Stemettes, a group of women whose mission is "to inspire the next generation of females into STEM fields by showing them the amazing women already in STEM via a series of panel events, hackathons, exhibitions and mentoring schemes." 

Ideally, we would not get to the state where one half (to be vague) of the academic world is underwhelmed and undersubscribed to the point of threatening large parts of our country's workforce, potentially impacting future economic growth. Educational choices at ground level are highly determined by the status quo; students who may be naturally inclined to do well at science and mathematics may not be encouraged to pursue this line of study or perhaps do not receive adequate tuition in these fields (this touches on related and timely issue regarding the quality of maths-based teaching in the UK). It could also be that, as mentioned above, many students feel STEM is too narrow a field to commit to when considering career opportunities, in which case Morgan's attempts to dis-spell these fears are well-founded but perhaps ill-described.

It remains to be seen how the numerous initiatives to promote studies and careers in STEM fare, but one can only hope that such heightened visibility of these industries attracts the people who may otherwise not have been aware of the opportunities at hand. Perhaps our growing reliance on and familiarity with technology in everyday life, coupled with the introduction of coding within the school curriculum, will contribute to these initiatives and ensure STEM gains attention for more than being lacking, its merits truly realised and the balance restored.

Languages of the Future

A November 2013 report by the British Council entitled "Languages for the Future" identified the top ten most vital languages to the UK over the next twenty years based on economic, geopolitical, cultural and educational factors. These languages are: Spanish, Arabic, French, Mandarin Chinese, German, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, Turkish and Japanese.

While none of the languages on this list come as a surprise, nor are there any startling omissions, this same report spoke of a language "deficit" within the UK that makes for slightly more disagreeable reading. Our country has an alarmingly poor record in taking up other languages let alone mastering them; only one quarter of the British public are able to speak any of the ten languages on the list well enough to hold a conversation. The next question is, presumably, why?

One factor that may be contributing to these unfavourable statistics, and the most pertinent to our discussion, is the falling rate of students opting to study languages. In 2013 alone there was a 5% drop in the number of students taking on a language at A Level, with languages representing only 3.8% of all subject entries. In light of this, it is crucial to reinforce the importance of languages at school and at home as part of our role in fostering a globally-adept future society for the UK. A language is a skill and so, like all skills, learning and speaking one can be economically beneficial - in this case culturally so too. As the British Council so succinctly assert, learning a language can 'give access to employment, enrich cultural understanding and provide a valuable resource which can be drawn on in overcoming communication barriers in an international context.'

Those languages identified as most vital to us in the UK are a rich and varied top ten. To put it bluntly: there should be something for everyone. Choosing which language to study at school can often be a big decision, especially as we are made to feel that these decisions stay with us throughout our academic careers, according to the way our education system is set up. I remember being particularly perplexed as to whether to opt for Italian or Spanish at GCSE; I chose Spanish on the basis that 350 million people in our world speak the language as their native tongue versus the Italian-speaking 59 million. Based on that justification, I may have chosen Mandarin had it been on offer at the time. While my reasoning may seem whimsical, each person's attraction to a specific culture and connection to a specific language is idiosyncratic, thus it follows that each person's reasons for choosing a language would be equally personal. It is worth stating, however, that in the context of schooling there are only so many subjects a student can take on at one tim and, as touched on just now, those more unorthodox school languages may not yet be offered (in this case private tuition can be a superb tool in supplementing mainstream education). 

With regard to the education sector, therefore, improvements to the linguistic arena can be dissected threefold: school curricula can be amended to include new languages; schools can exploit linguistic and cultural resources both within the UK and internationally; and youths and parents can seek out more opportunities to learn languages and experience different cultures.

Armed with all of this information, hopefully parents, schools and students would feel encouraged to push forth with the idea that linguistic competence equates to global prowess on an economic level, but also meaningful interconnectedness on a human level. Regardless of language and education, the world is becoming evermore compact and cultures more assimilated by means of the internet, political developments and ease of travel. We must keep up, adapt and look forward with strategic flair.