This feels like a really unexpected post, as out of the rather long list of blog post ideas, this wasn’t on it. Yet when I was scrolling through Facebook mindlessly on Monday evening, and came across this video, suddenly I couldn’t let the idea go. I was so taken by it that I even shared it – which is something I don’t do lightly, especially if there’s a political message behind it.
Have a watch of this, and see what you think:
(Video belongs to The Guardian)
I can’t help but feel that Lauren hits the nail on the head with some of this speech. The truth resonates with me: as someone who has just left state education, I’ve witnessed some of this.
The reformed exams have had their first ‘guinea pig’ year – English and Maths for the GCSE students, and a handful of A level exams. These changes are being rolled out properly over the next two years, yet they aren’t really a ‘reform’. Normally, you’d consider ‘reform’ a positive. I’ve always thought about the Great Reform Acts in history in making great changes. These changes aren’t helpful, nor positive, and have helped to drive students further and further into the ground. It is clear they were made by politicians – who have little care about the people their policies affect.
To an extent, I can understand the point in ‘reverting back to how things were’. But this idea becomes flawed when it doesn’t actually compute into reality. Take my History A level as an example. I love history, and am planning on studying it at university next year. Yet, we were faced with the complete unknown. We had no idea what to expect in the exam, as we had very little exam material. We were blind as to how they would be marked, let alone graded. And furthermore, the pressures and demand on us as students was dramatically increased. Try learning 110 years of American History, and 41 years of 16th Century English history in depth, at the same time as two other subjects, to the point where you know the fine details to be able to answer whatever small question we get thrown. I’m not complaining about exams – I fully understand that they are needed to challenge and test the knowledge we’ve learned. Yet, when the exams become more about ‘how good is your memory?’ as opposed to ‘how can you apply this knowledge?’, I feel like something’s gone wrong.
It’s reached the point that I genuinely fear for the health not only of the students, but of the teachers. They are the unsung heroes in this. Because it’s not just exams that have changed, but entire curriculums. That means hours and hours of new lesson plans, learning new content, alongside marking, teaching, long hours and handling the unruly students. Yet, you don’t hear them complaining, do you? The occasional news story about union strikes sometimes comes up, but in comparison to the railway strikes, that is pittance. In many ways, the teachers have taken the bullets for their students. The changes made by the government that were supposed to make ‘exams more of a challenge’, as too many people were getting top grades. But instead they’ve had a devastating effect.
Nevertheless, standards have risen, and the reality is that the majority of students feel the pressure to perform. To be told that our futures very much depend on the grades we achieve can be an unnecessary pressure. It is true that the mental health of students is affected. If I’m honest, how could it not be? It’s not a healthy environment – and while schools do everything they can for us, it doesn’t stop the work from piling up.
I’ve realised this has turned more into a rant than I wanted – but I wanted to make one thing clear. I loved studying, and learning, and used to crave finding out new things. I loved school. But over the past year or so, that was diminished. I lost that love, and passion for education. Whether that was because in my mind, I became an ‘exam-machine’, or that my life revolved around studying, I have no idea. I’m determined to find that love again – because I know it’s somewhere. But I can’t help but feel like maybe some people are pushed too far – to the extent they turn their backs on something they were once so passionate about.
It’s just something to think about. I don’t want to complain – because we are so fortunate to be able to have the access to education that we do. I know that as a nation, young people do take it for granted, myself included. But when health is at risk because of the pressures of education, isn’t there something wrong?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – share them below!