Today, I decided to do this discussion post instead of the Blogger Extravaganza post I’d initially planned on doing. Some of you may know that I’m having my midterm examinations (this week and next week), and that’s actually the reason why I’m writing this post. I notice that a lot of my friends and classmates tend to get stressed whenever exam season arrives (I do too, sometimes). But I think that it’s worse for my siblings and cousins who are still in school (high school or primary school). They always get very anxious whenever exams are coming, and it makes me really sad that these young kids feel so pressured.
Recently, a friend of mine shared a story on Facebook that made me think a lot about this issue. The story (a true story, of course) is about a 15-year-old girl from a very well-educated family. I’m not going to mention where this girl is from because I don’t think it matters. I think that no matter where you come from, the same thing could happen. So anyway, this girl’s parents are both teachers, and they really pressure their children to do well in school. On the day before her exam results would be released, this girl asked her father what he would think if she didn’t get the results he’d hoped for. Her father replied, “then you’re not my daughter”. The next day, after receiving her results (which I read was actually very good, but apparently not good enough), she actually committed suicide. I was so shocked when I read this story. It made me very sad that a young girl felt that she had to kill herself because she thought she wasn’t good enough in school, like her entire future was ruined because of an exam result. And of course, her father’s response to her question made me very angry, too. What’s worse is that this isn’t the first time I’ve heard about students committing suicide. A few months ago, a student from my cousin’s university actually jumped off the 7th floor because of the stress, and my cousin saw it happen with her own eyes. I can’t imagine what she must’ve felt.
I did a quick google search about suicide rates among young adults caused by ‘pressure of perfection’, and the results were appalling. I never realized how many students have committed suicide because of the stress that came from school. I’ve always thought that a school is a place where you can learn, to gain knowledge and information, and a place where you can build a solid foundation that could help you create a great future. But lately, I don’t think so anymore. What used to be healthy competition between classmates have become a scary rivalry, a bunch of kids trying to out-do each other so they can reach their parents’/teachers’/society’s expectations.
School really is a battlefield.
I share an apartment with my brother, and we both go to the same university. I notice that almost every day, the lights in his room doesn’t turn off until very late at night, or sometimes almost morning. I know this because it’s the same for me. Well, at least for me it’s not that often because I’m doing the culinary program which (thankfully) involves fewer assignments. But still, there’s always a constant supply of assignments/essays/projects that demands to be completed. It’s the same for my sisters who are in high school. They always complain to me about the never ending homework, pop quizzes, and extra classes. School bags are getting heavier and heavier because of all the textbooks, and students are getting less and less free time to do the things that they love.
And apparently, it’s still not enough.
Even with all the homework and assignments that we have to do, teachers are always saying that the students are lazy, or not hardworking enough. A lecturer actually told my class that the project we did looked like something we ‘did half an hour before the deadline’ and ‘it’s more suitable to be presented to preschoolers’ and she ‘expected more effort’ from us. In reality, it took us quite a while to finish that project, and to be honest, I thought we did pretty well, considering we had to juggle our time doing assignments for other subjects as well. I admit that there are students who are lazy and not hard working. But not every student is the same!
Not only that, students have to deal with the high expectations from their parents, which sometimes could be unrealistic. I understand that all parents want their children to do well in school, to be a smart student and get good grades, but the truth is, not every student can do it. I’m not saying this to be rude, but there are students who really can’t do well in school. But that doesn’t mean they can’t excel at other things. The way I see it, parents, and also teachers, think that as long as students work hard enough, they’ll be able to get good grades. I used to think that, too. Which is why I considered myself a very hardworking student when I was in high school. I studied every day, re-read the chapters that the teachers covered and made really good notes. My parents never actually pressured me to do well in school, but I pressured myself because I wanted them to be proud of me. But now, I realize that they are proud of me no matter what, and I’m so thankful for that.
This brings me to the topic of standardized examinations. I feel like these exams are students’ worst nightmares. Every time I had to sit for standardized exams, it was like there was an ominous cloud looming overhead. My friends and I would get together and study for long hours, attend extra classes and overdose on coffee. As the exams get nearer, we’d pull all-nighters and study like our lives depended on it. It’s like unless you stay up all night to study, you’re not putting maximum effort, and that’s really sad. Because at the end of the day, all that information we spent countless hours learning would be forgotten. If you ask me now “what is the formula for the volume of a cone”, I wouldn’t know what to say. I’d probably just say “I’m a culinary student, not a mathematician”. Unless you really want to be a scientist or something, all the math you learned in school would probably be useless, and then you’ll see how sad it is that you had to spend so much of your time studying something you had no interest in.
My brother has always been against standardized exams. He uses the argument “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”.
And that is very true. Everyone is good at different things. There are some students who really love to study, like a friend of mine, who loves studying so much, she never goes anywhere without her textbook (true story). But there are other students with different interests. Maybe they love art and would rather spend their school days painting instead of learning algebra, or maybe the love acting and want to audition for a musical instead of remembering dates from the history books.
I think that exams should not determine the smartness of a student. After all, all it does is test how well you can memorize your notes. Exams shouldn’t be something worth stressing over, and school shouldn’t be a place where you feel bad about yourself. Like my brother says, ‘at the end of the day, all you get is a piece of paper saying that you passed an exam. It doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t mean that if you get straight A’s then you’re better than those who didn’t. It doesn’t mean that your future is secure, that you’ll definitely get a job. It’s just a piece of paper’. Instead of pressuring students to do well in their studies, I think that parents and teachers should help them discover their talents and passions instead. Maybe instead of standardized exams, we could have a test on various subjects (art, music, academics, etc) to help students discover what they’re good at, or what they love to do. I believe that being forced to study things we hate is just a waste of time.
I’m really sorry that this post is so long and not book related, but this is an important topic to me, and if you actually read this until the end, I’d love to hear what you think about this subject. Do you agree with me about the exam thing? Have you ever felt pressured to do well in school even though you had no interest in the subjects?
Thanks for reading!