Is the pressure to succeed distorting our education?
Amongst younger members of today’s society there is a huge amount of pressure on high-school students to do well and “succeed” in their examinations. Indeed, it seems to me that schools often care more for their overall exam outcomes than they do for the welfare and well-being of the individuals who are sitting them. These examination results may help the schools to succeed in promoting themselves and advancing up league tables but that does not mean that they are always helpful for the students. In fact this obsession with exam results and league tables may, more broadly, be damaging and distorting education as a whole.
Often in the Scottish public school system students remain exam free throughout their junior years at high school. Then, from senior year, they are hit with the sudden realisation that exams determining the qualifications that they will rely on for the rest of their lives are around the corner and approaching fast. Over the next three years students will be on an endless treadmill of studying for Prelims, National 5s, Highers and then Advanced Highers, etc., etc., etc. On top of that students are misled into believing that exam results are the be all and end all.
This places a massive amount of pressure on students to do well and can lead to undue anxiety. Because of this, many students set themselves unreachable goals: nowadays you are a failure as a student unless you get five As and go to an elite university (Oxbridge or the Russel Group.) An extreme but enlightening example of where this can lead happened in a school in southern England called “St Olave’s”, where pupils who were achieving better than average but not the highest grades in 6th form were being threatened with exclusion and feeling unwelcome as the school persuaded parents to look at other schools elsewhere in case the school’s league table placings were damaged.
In reality, grades are not everything but the current generation of high-school students can be forgiven for believing they are, as that is what they are repeatedly told. This is not to say that grades are not important – of course they are, in some regards – but education should consist of more than endless tests and examinations and tests and examinations that prepare you for yet more tests and examinations.
And, of course, there are alternative ways of gaining entry to university. Some of which have advantages over the traditional route. Students are not told about this – again because of the “all important” league tables. However, for example, a student who has not achieved their required grades to apply to the university of their choice may not realise that they have the option of going to college first, gaining a certificate there and entering university in their second year. They can also simply resit their exams the following year, instead of processing to advanced Highers or do crash Highers in additional subjects (although I believe these are unnecessary). They might even wish to consider that university may not always be the best choice for them, depending on their career choice. Academic study after all is not for everybody.
At the moment, it seems to me, students are being brainwashed into believing that school grades are everything which is causing far too much pressure on this generation to achieve. But does this really best serve their needs and aspirations? Or does it best serve the schools ambitions to beat their rivals and come out top of the league tables?
This section: Lola Rose: aspiring writer
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