As my time in Coleg Sir Gar will soon come to its natural end, I think it’s time that I addressed a subject that has bothered me for nearly three years, but have not been at much liberty to post about until now – the Welsh Baccalaureate. Since I’m sure most of the world outside Wales won’t know, the Welsh Baccalaureate (which we all just call the “Welsh Bac”) is a secondary qualification that supposedly “combines experiences and projects that help you to develop as an individual”, and claims to “equip you for your next steps for work, university and for life”. However, my experience has shown the opposite.
The Welsh Baccalaureate is perhaps the most reviled aspect of life in college. The main problem is that the government requires all further education students to take it along with the course they want to do. Unless you’re on a degree course, this means that you have a secondary qualification appended to your own course without your consent, but if you’re actually doing the Welsh Bac, that’s the least of your worries. Apparently they attach it to your course in such a way that failing the Welsh Bac means failing your existing course, which I always thought was totally unfair. Why should students have to fail a course they want to take because they failed at something most students don’t even want?
What you do in the Welsh Bac is often irrelevant to the course you plan on doing. Throughout the programme, you spend your time writing and doing exercises about social issues, typically from the left wing point of view, which brings me to another concern I have. It is claimed that the Welsh Bac helps students develop critical thinking, but from my experience, the course seemed to be a hotbed of mainstream left-wing idealism. The tutor I had was an optimistic leftist who never really questioned what she was showing us, and she was even willing to show the movie I Am – a idealistic, self-indulgent documentary from the director of Ace Ventura – and she took its shady and often pseudo-scientific arguments as facts. It doesn’t help that she also used her position as a teacher to advance the idea of “global citizenship”, a subject that was never debated even once in the course.
If you do the Welsh Bac, whether by choice or not, you ultimately find yourself saddled with the task of writing an “individual investigation”, an academic report wherein you’re supposed to talk about a serious topic, and you have to compare the way said issue is handled in both Wales and a country of your choice. On top of that, it has to be at least 3,000 words long, which isn’t impossible, but still very annoying when you’re trying to concentrate on the real coursework. Also, depending on what topic you chose, finding the right information could be a hellishly frustrating task, and what good does this individual investigation do? Other than showing you what it’s like to write a degree-style academic report, it doesn’t do much good, especially if you consider that I only wrote it because I had to. If I had any choice in the matter, I wouldn’t have done the Welsh Bac at all.
The Welsh Bacc also comes with a language module, which is supposedly aimed at helping you learn a new language. However, in all the times I’ve had to do the Welsh Bacc, you weren’t given a choice of what language you wanted to learn, and they used it as a way of forcing English-speaking teenagers to learn Welsh. In 2013, this became my chief complaint against the Welsh Bac, and the source of the worst meltdown I’ve had so far. I could have handled it better, but I’m not exactly wrong. In my current class, the popular consensus is that the Welsh Bac does nothing except adding unnecessary frustration. That’s why I personally feel that the Welsh Bac doesn’t do anything except giving students far more work to do than they actually need.
Of course, there are those who support the Welsh Bac (and I bet those same people are out of touch with the young people), and they would claim that the Welsh Bac offers a broader student experience than what you’d have with just A-levels. I should also mention that the chief benefit of passing the Welsh Bac is that it gives you additional UCAS points to support your application for university (at most, you can get 120 UCAS points from it), but while a lot of universities accept the Welsh Bac, some universities, such as Warwick and Cambridge, don’t value the Welsh Bac compared to a single A-level. Worse still, if for the sake of argument you’re unfortunate enough to be taking the Welsh Bac on top of three A-levels, the combined workload will put you under unnecessary stress, which may actually hinder your chances of successfully getting into university. So on top of it being a useless qualification you’ll only use once in your life, it causes a lot of unnecessary stress that could ruin your chance of getting a degree, which ultimately defeats the point of trying to get the 120 UCAS points in the first place.
So if you live outside Wales or didn’t know what the Welsh Bac is, I hope I’ve given you an idea on what it actually is, and why we should get rid of it. The Welsh Bac doesn’t do anything good for a student, and even if it did, what good is it if the student isn’t given any choice in the matter. A student’s education should be a matter of their choice, because it’s ultimately their future on the line. If the Welsh government really cared about the education of its students, then they should abolish the Welsh Bac, or at least put an end to it being required in further education college, because as long as it’s mandatory, it’s nothing more than another reason why it sucks to be a young person in Wales.