Occasional pain, abundant gain
Badrika Bahadur, a student at the Alice Smith School in Kuala Lumpur, looks at the demands and rewards of taking on the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)
EPQ – preparation for higher education
Year 12 at the Alice Smith School was a particularly challenging but also enriching year for many of my peers and for me. We constantly had our noses in a book or website as we worked towards the EPQ. The EPQ (Extended Project Qualification) involves the completion of an independent research project that provides students with an opportunity to explore, in depth, a subject area that they are passionate about. EPQ students must produce either a 5000-word written report or an artefact and write-up of the creative process.
The topics chosen by my fellow students varied greatly and included titles such as:
- Contemporary Art – is the cost justifiable compared to Fine Art?
- How would a universal currency impact the world economy?
- Affordable eco-friendly housing. Is it a dream?
Some chose to undertake artefact projects including:
- The creation of an App to solve Sudoku puzzles
- A video documentary about Tobruk
- The creation, direction and performance of an original stage play called ‘Break Free’
There were several aspects to the project including a plan, research, reflection (recorded as a production log) and a final presentation. Throughout the process we received regular and frequent support from our EPQ supervisors.
Independent research skills
After seemingly endless research, planning and redrafting, in Year 13, we finally saw the hard work of shaping our projects pay-off. Reflecting back on the year, EPQ may have been a struggle or even a burden for many of us. It sometimes seemed to be just another pile of work to add to the load. However, as we gradually developed our independent research skills, most of us seemed to find areas of study that were genuinely captivating.
Did you know . . . . . ?
Within my tutor group, there would always be the “Did you know?” question or someone gasping in awe, making everyone else curious as to what was so interesting. We would then share the knowledge each of us had acquired. It was fascinating to see different people working on different topics such as theatre, history, feminism, space travel, mechanical engineering and so on. It gave us the opportunity to gain general knowledge on a topic that was not of our specialty. In addition, our supervisors were particularly helpful in guiding us in the right direction and encouraging us to support each other.
We derived so much from embarking on the EPQ project. EPQ lessons were a chance for us to take a break from our A level subjects while still remaining focused. Gaining a range of academic skills from the process was a definite benefit. We picked up new skills such as undertaking in-depth research, referencing and conducting primary research. “EPQ teaches you the importance of time management within the busy life of A levels and that research is imperative in understanding something to your full potential,” commented one student.
In my opinion, the best part of the process was probably the presentations as it was incredibly rewarding to see the process of everyone’s project unfold. It could be argued that the most valuable element learnt from the process, however, was learning about ourselves as an individual. EPQ gave us the opportunity to venture into a wide world of knowledge, allowing us to discover our strengths and weaknesses and where our passion lies.
Besides that, an advantage of EPQ is that it plays a part in helping us prepare for university. It gives us an idea of how to produce a piece of detailed academic writing, although difficult in the beginning. It also gave an additional spark when writing our personal statement. I was particularly lucky; my EPQ was the aspect that caught the attention of the selection at a university to which I had applied.
The EPQ was not without its challenges. The main obstacle most of us faced was coming up with a focused question or objective. Some of us, including myself, had to make multiple changes to our projects. Starting the report was also a challenge, as we felt uncertain of the structure and content of it. This led to multiple attempts at drafting.
As I was doing an artefact on writing and staging a play, I ended up writing three scripts and redrafting my final version two weeks before the deadline. This was due to obstacles such as having cast members pull out and difficulties agreeing on timings and strategies. Nevertheless, perseverance, hard work and support helped me in pulling through and successfully completing the project.
It may have taken the entire year but, in a blink of an eye, it was done and dusted. In January, we anxiously waited to find out if we had achieved the targeted grade. Our tutor assured us with a smile that “There were no surprises in the results achieved.”
When we collected our folders to take a look at our grades, it was wonderful to see smiles all around the room suggesting a sense of satisfaction, achievement and pride. Although willpower and effort was important, we also have our friends and teachers to thank for helping us make it to the finish line, the completion of our amazing projects. Ultimately, EPQ proved to be an enormously worthwhile experience. You just need to find the passion and you’ll see what I mean. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible until it is done.”
Badrika is a Sixth Form student at the Alice Smith School, Kuala Lumpur Malaysia.
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