[ubuntu-uk] A-levels (was Royal Society)

Harry Rickards harry at linux.com
Fri Aug 27 12:10:52 BST 2010

On 27 August 2010 11:50, Mark Harrison <Mark at ascentium.co.uk> wrote:
> This is a genuine question to those currently / recently at Schoo/Uni.
> When I was choosing my A-levels (1987), there was a strong piece of advice
> for those who wanted to study Computing at Uni. That advice was "don't
> bother with Computing A-Level, do Maths and Further Maths instead."
> This was on the basis that, at the time, the Universities were saying that
> they basically wanted to teach programming / analysis to people who had good
> experience at symbolic manipulation, and considered the A-level syllabus, as
> it was at the time, to be a bit of a waste of space.
> These days, has the world changed? If you are studying Computing at Uni (or
> aiming to do so), is the expectation that you would have done A-levels
> (A2,AS, whatever they are these days) first???

First, a quick explanation. AS is the first year of A-Level and
completing an AS level gives you 'half' an A Level. A2 is the second
year and after completing an AS and an A2 you get a 'full' A Level.
You take up to 5 AS Levels, but at the end of your AS year drop some
(I think you can drop up to two, but you don't have to drop any).

Not really. Although I'm doing an IT A-Level (I'm doing it 2 years
early, so it's not intruding on anything else otherwise I wouldn't do
it), AFAIK it's recommended by Oxbridge to only take Computing as a
fourth A2 level else don't take it, and don't take IT at all. The
advice still stands towards Maths and Further Maths, but I think it's
also recommended to take Physics and Electronics, at least at A2

> My experience, by the way, is that the people who are BEST at Programming,
> are those who've discovered it OUTSIDE of the formal teaching environment,
> and want to "hack" (in the old-fashioned sense) for the pleasure of doing
> so. For this (among many other things), we need to thank the Linux community
> for providing a set of tools allowing the potential programmer to get
> started. (Yes, I know you could get started with VB, but, while I've written
> a lot of code in it over the years, I don't think it's a great language in
> which to teach the fundamentals.)

Absolutely. I will just add that as much as we may want it to be just
the Linux community, it's not. Rewired State run something called
Young Rewired State every year (I think there was a post about it on
this list). This is an annual hackweek type event for 15 to 18 year
olds. At this year's event most people seemed to be running Mac OSX,
with some running Windows (I think I accidently flamed Microsoft on
Twitter, saying the Microsoft guys should just leave because no-one
wants them here, while the two Windows Phone 7 guys were looking over
my shoulder) and even fewer running Linux (I think everyone apart from
me was running Ubuntu, I was running Debian because it was all my EEE
701 could cope with and run smoothly).

> Mark
> --
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Harry Rickards - harry at linux.com
Vote Lib Dem - Building a fairer Britain - http://libdems.org.uk

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