Posted in Blog

The Kids Aren’t Alright

I always thought I was laid back when I was younger but my mother recently reminded me that I had a full blown meltdown over my SAT tests.

If you’re not from the UK, a SAT test is an exam you take in Year 6 (so around the age of 10-11) that literally leave no mark upon your academic record in any shape or form. The only significance?

League tables.

But that’s not what you are told. Mind this was in 2006/2007 when I was told, but I remember my teaching sitting my class down and telling us that these were the most important exams ever and we had to pass. I remember talking to my friends thinking that it would have some importance at our secondary school, like if we failed we would be put in the low-level math classes. Even then I had this horrible inability to not fail. Even when I disliked something, I still had to try. So I went into these awful exams stressed more than any 1o/11 year old should be.

Now imagine my surprise when a few months later, fully settled into Secondary School, a new set of exams were thrown on us. This time, they were called CAT tests. I still, to this day, am not certain as to what their role was. SAT’s test had a small standing in what classes we were put in, but they mostly kept up in mixed ability (with the hopes that the Einstien prodigies would rub off on the trouble makers). CAT tests, we were told, were to reassess our abilities and make sure we were in the right classes.

But the CAT tests were never revealed to us, so I have no idea what I scored and whether that inflicted on my education. All I knew was that I had already suffered panic attacks twice to sit an exam that would not hinder my ability to learn in any shape or form.

By the time my GCSE’s rolled around, I was a mess. I was being told that colleges would reject you if you didn’t get the grade and, at the time that was true. I was told I couldn’t do an art course, even if I could provide evidence of my ability because I had decided not to take art at GCSE level. It was the small things, the things my school had failed to tell me. I didn’t realise until I had mere months left that I didn’t just need to think of the short term, I had to think long. Basically, I needed to have had foresight as to what I was going to study, what I actually wanted to do after my education was finished, before I knew it myself. And if I could go back, yes I would have picked differently. Whilst I loved history, the teacher I enjoyed in my first year left and I quickly struggled to find motivation. French taught me nothing more than to pass an exam and ICT was a colossal waste of time. When I got to college, there was so much I wanted to do – such variety. And it was here that I fell back in love with education because I had picked the subjects that interested me.

Two years after I took my GCSE’s and this was no longer true. You HAD to go to college. More children were going, some occasionally found themselves onto paths of apprenticeships. But the grading slipped. They had to let these students in, otherwise what else could they do?

My brother is only 13. A few weeks ago he asked me to go home for his option evening. He is in year 8. He is going to spend the next 3 years working his ass off for something he will probably come to hate. He is not motivated, like me. He does not have the same fear of failure that propels me. I’m terrified that the next 3 years will kill any interest he has in computer science, will put him off on his dream to work with computers all because he was to write an in-depth analysis of computer components.

The exams we are put through do not test our ability to learn. They do not test our understanding of the subjects or our level of interest. They test our ability to absorb and repeat information for a certain amount of time. These exams are not fair, nor do they encourage children to embrace education.

I am a firm believer that every single human on this Earth is able to learn anything. The difference comes through the teaching, and currently, our schools only cater to one style.

I guess this wouldn’t be so bad, but after years of being forced into learning subjects you hate, you start to begin to question education and whether or not to pursue it. I sat there, debating whether or not to go to college. I didn’t see the point, neither my brother or sister had gone on to do something with their qualifications. They sat at jobs that required nothing but a brain. Monotonous jobs that any old fool could do. But like I said, I have a fear of failing and I really wanted to challenge myself.

Now, I’ve ranted myself away. I have a lot to say on the subject, but I will leave it with this.

Why are we forcing children to learn advanced skills that they will never put into use unless they pursue highly advanced, specific careers? Why are we forcing children to lose any ounce of creativity that they naturally nurture at a young age? Why are we making learning such a chore?

Our education system needs to reform otherwise we will be bringing up generation after generation of children who no longer care about the world.




I'm currently working my way through a Creative and Professional Writing degree in London.

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