Kaizen, is a funny, little Japanese word that has come to mean continuous improvement, one step at a time. If someone had informed me at the tender age of ten that one day I would be interested in Japanese business philosophy, or any philosophy, or words for that matter, I would have laughed at them. I deplored English and prayed for the day when it was no longer compulsory. Naturally, in a matter of perfect, poetic irony writing is the profession which I now pursue.

For you to understand this transformation I have to take you back to the beginning… When I was eleven, my parents made a big step and started home-schooling me, through Oxford Open Learning (OOL). There are so many elements behind making such a decision, that goes against the grain of society; one of the practical reasons was that my parents’ global company demanded that they travel and my parents wanted us to join them on their escapades. The flexibility and mobility that OOL allows perfectly suited these demands and those signature blue folders have seen many airport lounges. On a more ideological basis, my parents believe that individuals learn in different ways and at different times. In their view, the formalities of the established educational system are often constricting and don’t cultivate an individual’s true potential. The ability to learn in your own surroundings, at your own pace, with the guidance of a private-tutor (only a phone call away) is a unquestionable opportunity and a privilege. Regardless of these reasons it was a life-changing decision that has resulted in a series of experiences whilst studying with OOL. I started by studying the core subjects of history, science and English during Key Stage 3, since then additional courses of geography and ICT have been added, providing an additional edge to my younger sibling’s studies. From having to pick up the telephone and hold a initial conversation with my tutors, to writing my first tutor-marked assignment, many milestones were marked during this stage. One particular moment that resonates, is the words of encouragement I received from my then English teacher, in response to a poem I had written. As simple as they were they sowed a seed. Many, many poems later I can say it was a turning point and one I am very grateful for. In turn, my new found enthusiasm for the written word filtered through to eight IGCSEs/GCSEs and three A levels. I won’t say it was always plain sailing or that I woke up every morning glowing with enthusiasm, there were essays I did not wish to write and questions I didn’t know how to answer. Furthermore, the lack of coursework during my IGCSE’s was a challenge that differentiated me from the mainstream of those taking GCSE’s and perhaps not for the faint hearted. Personally, I found the course material was always focused, easy to understand and very detailed (regardless of subject), resulting in me confidently facing my final examinations. In the final years, my exams were essay based, and the tutor-marked assignments proved wonderful practise, enabling me to cultivate the necessary skills from day one. It was also during these years, that I depended more on my teachers for explanation, direction and advice and came to the conclusion that many teachers can teach, but it takes someone special to inspire. My journey with Oxford Open Learning lasted seven years and came to an end last June. Looking back with the benefit of hindsight (and hopefully some maturity), I can say that along with my qualifications, I acquired skills of independence, persistance and self-discipline. More importantly I gained a love of knowledge, that has extended into my recent gap-year and enriched my blossoming career as a writer, as I look to write and direct my first short film.

To conclude, my three younger siblings are now following those same old steps that ultimately lead to GCSE’s and A levels. Whilst, my own exams seems a world away (a gap year will do that to you), I understand that exams will always be nerve-wracking. However, it comforts me and my parents to know that with Oxford Open Learning they will be guided every step of the way.

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