Who's to judge the value of certificates?

21st January 2005 at 00:00
At the age of five, like most other people, I began formal education. Before I started school I was excited, looking forward to it.

What a let-down. I hated it, I was unhappy and bullied, yet I stayed for seven more years. As soon as my mother found out about home education I came out of school. Just like that. And just like that I was happy.

I found my self-confidence and my self. It was great. Being home educated gives you a much wider view on everything. It doesn't work for everybody, but it works for some - just like school.

Home education is more flexible than school because there are so many ways to do it. I was autonomously home educated. This means you learn what you want to; it's all up to you. I found the best way of learning was from talking to people, reading interesting books, watching educational television programmes or using the internet. But I learned most by just living.

Schools are aimed at the average, the terminally normal, the people who fit in the mould. And if you don't, you're stuck. That's why I love home education: it caters for the alternative, the bizarre, the plain and the boring. There are no restrictions; everything is your own choice.

I chose not to take GCSEs; I never saw the need for them because I didn't think I'd ever want to go to college. But last year I decided that going to college was something I wanted to do. Now I am studying for A-levels in English literature and photography and a BTec in journalism. When I have completed these I shall flaunt them under people's noses.

Not having any GCSEs definitely made getting into college more difficult. A 20-minute interview lasted more than an hour. After lots of arguing with the administrator and the head of the English department - this being my most academic subject - we established I would write an essay on Romeo and Juliet and if it was all right I was in. Thankfully it was.

Getting into college because of something I wrote rather than because I own a bunch of certificates has given me more pride than nine GCSEs ever could have. The whole point of college is to end up with more qualifications, and I plan to take the exams and do the best I can. But I will always have more pride in the things I have written than in the exams people have set for me.

I believe in creating rather than imitating, so the idea of examinations doesn't sit well with me. Who knows whether my lack of GCSEs will affect my job prospects? I can't think why it would; I wouldn't let it stop me doing anything. People say that at 16 you know nothing about the real world, so how can you expect someone to take an exam at that age that people will judge them on for the rest of their life? I prefer to be judged on what I write, what I say and who I am. What about you?

Amie Borthen is at college in Devon

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