Thursday, 26 September 2013

Learn a language and discover somewhere new

Learn a language and discover somewhere new

Today is the annual European Day of Languages (EDL), which celebrates the linguistic diversity of Europe and promotes the learning of languages.

Proficiency in more than one language is a desirable ability to have for a number of reasons. It opens up more avenues for career development and makes you stand out to potential employers, who - in an increasingly globalised world - increasingly value language skills in their employees.

Being able to speak another language is also an advantage beyond the workplace. As EDL explains, multilingualism encourages openness and understanding towards others, and promotes greater mental flexibility of perspective: 'Learning to use another language is about more than the acquisition of a useful skill - it reflects an attitude, of respect for the identity and culture of others and tolerance of diversity.'

There’s more: as NEC tutor Melanie points out, studies have consistently shown how learning another language is an effective way to help build your multitasking skills, improve your memory, make you more perceptive, and even comes with health benefits such as helping to stave off dementia.

Here at NEC we often find that languages are amongst the most popular of subject areas that our students enrol on, and also amongst most rewarding for them to study. The flexibility offered by distance learning allows our students to pick up a new language without having to put the rest of their life on hold. Whatever their reasons for wanting to learn, this flexibility helps them to achieve their aspirations sooner.

Anna is one such student. 'Last year I decided to start studying AS French by distance learning, as my dream was to go and live in France after I’d finished university,' she explains. 'I was initially worried about keeping up with the workload as I already had so much to do, but my tutor was very understanding and let me submit my work whenever I had the time. Her feedback over the course really helped me to improve, and I surprised myself by coming out with an A grade in the exam.'

'Although juggling the course with other commitments was stressful at times, in the end it was worth it and I’m now looking forward to practising my newly acquired language skills when I move to France!'

Another student who found learning French with NEC to be immensely rewarding is Sue. She studied the language at IGCSE level, and explains, 'I chose French in particular because we have a holiday home in the South of France, and I wanted to improve on my command of the language for the purpose of integrating with the locals and also dealing with officialdom.'

'I looked at local French classes which a) were geared to conversational French only and b) did not fit in with my work and social timetable. I found NEC on the internet and came to the view that distance learning would give me the best opportunity to study for a recognised qualification.’

As well as offering French at IGCSE and A level, NEC also offers Spanish at IGCSE level. NEC tutor Amanda is passionate about Spanish and hopes the European Day of Languages will help inspire more people to learn something new. 'At it simplest, Spanish is a fun language to learn. The NEC course is well written, and the success of students who have completed the course are testament to that.'

'You just never know, learning Spanish might be life-changing if you are able to travel, change jobs, relocate, go on holiday or start a new life in a Spanish-speaking country.'

If the EDL’s celebrations have inspired you to learn a new language, visit our website for full details on all of our flexible distance learning courses, or get in touch and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you have. You can also subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Tips for studying with a young family

Busy parents can fit learning into their lives with a flexible course from NEC

One of the main advantages of distance learning is its complete flexibility. We talk a lot about how studying with NEC lets you learn whenever and wherever suits your personal circumstances; for many people, it’s simply not possible to attend regular classes or follow a strict timetable.

One such group of people is parents of young families. Looking after small children is a full-time job in itself, so finding the time to gain a qualification while being a committed parent can be incredibly challenging. Many of our learners are in this exact situation, so here are some of their tips on how to get the balance just right:

1. Designate a family study time
If your children are of school age, why not combine their homework or reading time with your studying time? Studying as a family means you can all help each other, and form a regular routine.

2. Create a study group with other parents
If you know other families with similarly aged children, why not meet up and study together. You could encourage friends to learn something new as well, and your children can play together at the same time.

3. Consider going to the library
If you find that you’re just not getting anything done at home with your kids, try taking them to the library. The peace and tranquility could be just what you need to focus on your studies, while your children can explore the wide collection of stories and knowledge available to them.

4. Don’t be afraid to get a babysitter
If you’ve got an exam just around the corner or a deadline you have to meet, you could try asking a babysitter or family member for help. Although this isn’t ideal and can prove costly, sometimes you might just need to get your head down and focus solely on your work.

Studying with a family is tough, but with dedication and discipline it can be done. The flexibility offered by distance learning has helped many of our students to successfully juggle parenthood with studying.

One of those students is Louise, who combined her love of reading with gaining a new qualification when she enrolled on NEC’s A level English Literature course. She had this to say about her experiences:

‘The flexibility of studying at home suits my family and work situation. I would suggest making sure people set aside adequate time for study: make sure all your jobs are done first so you can settle down to it because it can be difficult to concentrate without classroom discipline! But it is a great way of fitting learning into your life, especially when you have a young family and work.’

A level Biology student Emma was in a similar scenario when she was studying for her NEC course. Becoming a parent made her reassess where her life was going.

‘I chose to study by distance learning because, at the time I began the course, I had a baby under one and also worked in an office three days a week. This meant I could not dedicate a set time to my study each week. Having my baby made me think about where I wanted to go with my career, and I decided that I would be interested in physiotherapy, so decided to study A level Biology.’

For more information about our full range of flexible distance learning courses, as well as our special 10% discount off all courses for September, visit our website or get in touch. You can also subscribe to our newsletter, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

SPaG blog - let NEC help you improve your skills

Improve your spelling, punctuation and grammar with NEC

NEC has recently put together an educational resource to help improve our distance learners’ spelling, punctuation and grammar skills - otherwise known as ‘SPaG’.

Access to this resource will be included free of charge to all of our learners, and is also available to schools and colleges. If you’re afraid of apostrophes, substandard at spelling, terrified by tautology or confused by conjunctions, NEC’s materials can help you or your learners to improve.

There has been a lot of talk in the media lately about SPaG skills. It has been reported that employers feel the levels of literacy amongst school leavers is disappointingly low, and some have have even felt the need to provide their own training for new recruits as a way to compensate.

There has also been a lot of discussion around the awarding of marks for good levels of spelling, punctuation and grammar in the exams of some GCSE subjects, as well as the deduction of marks for poor levels of the same.

We have produced our new resource because we know a lot of hard work and dedication goes into studying, and we want to see those efforts rewarded. We want to help learners achieve the best possible results they can in their exams.

We have consulted from examiners' reports in order to select the topics we cover; with the increased focus on SPaG skills it makes sense to ensure no marks are lost due to the sorts of common mistakes that examiners tend to see. As such, anyone studying subjects on which they will be examined may find our new resource particularly useful.

However, the ability to communicate effectively is an invaluable life skill, so improving your spelling, punctuation and grammar will also be relevant to the workplace as well as the classroom - and beyond!

The topics contained in this resource have been written with the same care we pay to all of our subject-based resources. We've included comments to help develop confidence and suggestions on how to continue learning once a topic is completed, allowing you to check your progress as you work through the materials. Each topic is presented in accessible sections with plenty of examples, and there are activities which give you the opportunity to put what you've learned into practice.

If you want to look up something specific you can check through the clickable index of topics. If you come across terminology that you don't know the meaning of, you can look through our helpful glossary. We have also dedicated a section to the spelling of technical words for subjects such as sciences, geography and history.

For more information on our SPaG materials, other resources, or to view our full range of distance learning courses, visit our website or get in touch. You can also subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Core skills and second chances

Core qualifications and second chances at education

From this year, as part of the government’s response to Professor Alison Wolf’s Review of Vocational Education, the participation age is being raised so that young people in England will need to remain in some form of education or training until they are 17. From 2015, this will be raised again to 18.

Alongside this, pupils in England who do not achieve at least a C grade in English and maths at GCSE will be required to continue studying these subjects at post-16. Education Secretary Michael Gove stressed their importance when he said, ‘Good qualifications in English and maths are what employers demand before all others. They are, quite simply, the most important vocational skills a young person can have.’

Indeed, English and maths are amongst our most popular subjects here at NEC. Last month, GCSEs in maths and English made up the top percentage of our total enrolments. CEO Ros Morpeth agrees that these core qualifications open many doors. But she also points out that a struggling student may need a different approach, and also that sometimes it’s not until you leave school that you realise you might have missed out.

This is where the flexibility and versatility of distance learning can really help. One of the reasons NEC was set up 50 years ago was to provide an alternative and more flexible route to these and other essential qualifications, making it possible to fit a student’s learning around their own particular circumstances.

NEC’s learners are of all ages and backgrounds, including those who left school at 16 without good GCSEs but now want to gain them, and and older learners who need to earn while they learn. With distance learning there is no need to attend regular classes at a physical location, so learners can can time their studies around a job or other commitments.

Learners such as 18-year-old James, who wanted to both move abroad and continue his education using the English system. He found NEC’s distance learning courses to be the perfect solution and completed a total of 10 courses including GCSEs and A levels. Tom is another example, a father who had to juggle his studies alongside working full-time and spending time with his child. He was referred to NEC by the Open University and succeeded in studying for GCSE English.

NEC also works with schools to provide a flexible alternative by delivering courses through distance learning, for example where there is a timetable clash at the school, or if a popular subject – such as maths or English – becomes oversubscribed. We aim to continue to do what we can to help, in the event that the government’s changes put a strain on schools trying to provide for post-16 students.

At NEC we are passionate about opening access to second chances in education. Whether you are a school or college or individual, if you believe that the flexible and versatile alternative provided by distance learning could make a difference to your circumstances, we would love to hear how we can help you.

To find out more about who we are and what we do, or to get in touch, visit our website. You can also subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.