Their stories are inspiring; a testament that education is a journey and learning is life long.
These mature students are developing new interests and feeding their passion for knowledge thanks to the Warwick Open Studies Certificate Course.
Zahtoon Akhtar -
"Two years ago, out of sheer coincidence and personal curiosity, I found myself on the Open Studies course offered by Minority Group Support Services and the University of Warwick. At 34 and with four young, demanding children of my own it is important to me to have a good work-life balance so I work part-time. I was working as a bi-lingual education assistant in a local primary school.
Initially I undertook the ‘Supporting minority ethnic pupils’ achievement’ module and although I only had to complete three out of four modules I enjoyed myself so much I completed the fourth too. In particular I enjoyed participating and working with people from a diverse range of social, cultural, ethnic and professional backgrounds.
Coming from a Kashmiri/Pakistani heritage has enabled me to share my own personal and professional experience of working with children from a diverse range of ethnic backgrounds. My appetite whetted and I was thirsty for a more challenging and rewarding course, which encouraged my application for the Early Years Sector Endorsed Foundation Degree.
I am now in the second year and am finding it immensely informative and interesting. I am able to put theory into practice and employ my knowledge. My eventual ambition is to gain this formal degree qualification and go into teaching and management."
"For some time I have been convinced that I could get more out of life if I changed career. I have a busy schedule and investigating such a move is not easy. The Open Studies course in psychology has provided an excellent taster of what I would be letting myself in for at a level that is accessible to someone with an interest in the subject. I have been provided with a fascinating insight into the subject and regardless of whether I go ahead and change my career the understanding that I have gained into my own behaviour and the behaviour of others will be invaluable in life."
Patricia E. Winstanley
"Having always thrilled to dramatic landscape but becoming increasingly frustrated by my inability to 'read' what I was seeing, I was delighted to find that the University of Warwick was running 'An Introduction to Earth Sciences and Geology' which was available daytime or evening.
Little did I know just how involved I was to become.
The course is an excellent mixture of theory and practical work, as well as the wonderful history and formation of the earth as we know it today. Once the basic mineralogy and composition of the rocks is learned there is the opportunity to identify them in the class. There are field trips to interpret local geological landscape, and geological trails.
The 'homework' project this term has occupied much of my time as I have become so (voluntarily) absorbed and learned as much of local history as I have of the local geology.
Retired people don't often have a problem filling in time but I can heartily recommend such a course to keep the mind active and learn in a pleasant atmosphere."
"Standing back to assess life at 55 promised to be useful after 30 years of working alone.
"Get out and meet people more," my family said, while I wanted to discover reasons for the intriguing behaviour of plants and wildlife encountered in my work as an estate gardener. Understanding environmental phenomena might even benefit my other career of writing. The Open Studies Certificate in Ecology appealed, and just one inexpensive evening a week was worth exploring, surely.
It proved a turning point, with a wide range of fascinating subject matter, plenty of outdoor activity, and enthusiastic friendly tutors and students. Books on botany and animal ecology instantly replaced Morse at bedtime.
We were all sorry to finish the course, but its influence didn't stop there. I now help regularly with a woodland management team, edit the county Mammal Society newsletter, record bird and small mammal activities, monitor otters on the Avon, and run the estate as a wildlife sanctuary. And the new sociable, enquiring me has even impressed my family."
"When I embarked upon the Open Studies Certificate in Supporting Minority Ethnic Pupils Achievement little did I realise the effect it would have on me both personally and professionally. I am 36 years old, married, with three children and working as a multi-lingual assistant for Minority Group Support Services.
Initially I was interested in training that would help me devise strategies that would be useful in my work. I had not undertaken any form of studying since attending a commercial French course in 1988, long before the responsibilities of family life!
Having enrolled on the Certificate I discovered that it could count towards a degree. I found the studying challenging but highly rewarding. It also set me on a voyage of self-discovery. I have improved my I.T. skills, given presentations and written reports that previously I would have felt unable to do. I have since enrolled on a part-time degree course in Early Childhood Studies and from this I have realised that all sorts of opportunities exist."
The Open Studies programme falls under the Centre for Lifelong Learning. They offer a variety of learning opportunities for adults who often have work and family commitments and anyone with the interest to study.
Courses range from archaeology to zoology with majority carrying academic credit that can be used as routes to further study.
Further details can be found at http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/study/cll/OpenStudies/
Also check out their stand at the Big Bash on 23rd June 2004.