In 2016, thousands of children and teenagers turned to Childline, unable to cope with the stress and pressure of exams. 1 in 5 children have a diagnosed mental health condition, and children as young as 6 are suffering from anxiety. Overwhelming amounts of stress and pressure are being put on young people at school, and for what? Are exams really worth the havoc they wreak on childrens lives?
What are schools? They are institutes that educate children, and prepare and set them up for a successful, fulfilling life as an adult.
Or at least they should be. The true purpose of school has clearly been misconstrued over time; children are no longer being taught to learn, they are merely being taught how to pass; being taught to be good test-takers rather than good people. Young people are entering the adult world equipped with useless knowledge like trigonometry and the French Revolution, but no idea how to pay taxes or get a mortgage.
Exams put outrageous amounts of stress on young people.
70% of young people have admitted to feeling sad or anxious at least once a week, and 65% of that number named school as the main cause. Thats roughly 3,368,820 young people in the UK alone. This stress can bring on an innumerable amount of serious mental health problems and consequences, such as anxiety, panic attacks, depression, self-harm and even suicide. The number of teenagers with mental health conditions induced or worsened by school has risen by 21% in the last 2 years. Here are some quotes on stress from young people, published in The Guardian newspaper in 2016:
I have suffered from panic attacks and a high increase in anxiety. Its quite scary how, as a student, I find it normal to see my peers break down in lessons as they are scared of whats going to happen to them in the future if they fail.
I have seen the mentally toughest people crack and its painful to watch. People crying over being unable to a maths question. Is this what we want as a nation? To be put under such mental stress?
During the exam period, students even sacrifice their health for studying. 74% of teenagers have stayed up all night to study for an exam, and 30% do it often. Over time, lack of sleep weakens the immune system and can increase susceptibility to chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease, decreases brain function, and increases the symptoms and likelihood of mental health problems. They also stay indoors all day, revising, and suffer from a lack of fresh air and Vitamin D. Plus; they find it difficult to make time for self-care activities like eating healthily, exercising and seeing friends and family, which also takes a significant toll on their wellbeing. What does it say about us as a society that we do not prioritize the wellbeing of our young people over exams?
The whole examination system is extremely subjective and gives a disadvantage to many pupils. It does not give an accurate representation of academic ability and favours the students with good memory and good exam technique, rather than those who work hard. It is also highly dependent on the quality of teaching provided, and if a student is plagued with a poor teacher, their results will fail to represent them fully. Plus, the marking and grading of exams is also non-objective and a students result could end up being significantly affected by the marker.
Having everything youve worked for over the course of an entire year depend on one day is unreasonable and results in a huge amount of unnecessary additional pressure. There are so many factors that could affect a candidates performance on that one day, such as illness, family illness, grievance/loss, even amount of sleep that could affect their grade, and potentially their life, forever.
Frequent smaller tests throughout the year, all added up into a final grade at the end of the year would give a much more accurate and well-rounded representation of their ability and performance in that class all year long, and would take so much of the pressure off the shoulders of the young people. It would also actively encourage them to study and be on the ball all year round, rather than relentlessly cramming at the end of the year, which would reduce even more of the stress at that time.
In conclusion, the amount of stress and pressure forced onto young people during school exams is unnecessary, and so not worth it for what they end up getting out of it. Our young people should feel excited, privileged and grateful for the opportunity to go to school, learn and prepare for adulthood, not dealing with deteriorating mental health and receiving counselling before theyre even 18 years old. Exams should be exciting, and a chance to show and be proud of everything theyve learned and achieved, not the reason they dread waking up in the morning. They should have the freedom to live and be young without having school completely take over their lives and rob them of their youth. Give children their education back. Give children their sanity back. Give children their lives back.