The pressure to achieve
I am at the stage in my life where I am taking my GCSE’s, they tell me these are “life changing” and will “pave my future” depending on the grades I receive. For many teenagers the anxiety and dread of these exams loom over our heads everyday as the pressure builds up to a climax…but why?
Society has placed this pressure and severity on GCSE’s from the very beginning, but with the very recent changes students have had to adapt and once again worry further about memorising 3 books, 15 poems, countless dates and equations all for some numbers on a piece of paper.
“Employers will ask for your GCSE grades because it’s something that everyone has to do and allows for an even playing field.” But is it fair to remove tiered exams (such as English) making foundation level students sit the same exam as higher tier? Not at all. Nor is it fair to revert back to a process of constant cramming and memorisation just to regurgitate years worth of knowledge into a paper.
Something I wish teachers, parents and society alike told students is “GCSE grades do not determine how smart you are” because anyone can memorise all about the structure of the heart, the Cold War or even the quadratic equation but for so many people these exams are detrimental to their mental health and well-being.
I find myself so burnt out, so apathetic towards my own learning sometimes and have even cried looking at what some could see as a very “simple” question all because of this fear of failure and underachieving what I believe I’m capable for.
These new numbers add grades that didn’t really exist before allow for a broader range yet I can’t help but sigh when we see so many people praise the achievement of (very rare) 8’s and 9’s and shun those who worked just as hard and achieved 5’s. We are only 16 once and I personally just don’t believe that this year should be consumed by constant worry and revision to then have to endure the same thing in 2 years time, many students do not find their passion in a classroom but even then; I am an avid lover of the sciences and maths but still have talents outside of school I have had to drop for this year in order to study such as music.
To all those students (like myself) who have cried over the prospect of “failing” and feel the constant pressure from yourself and others please know that these exams are not the end of the world. You will do it all again in 2 years before then stepping into your own career but maybe for some of you, life will change course. Apprenticeships, BTEC’s and alternative learning are all still just as valid and okay to pursue after secondary school and can get you where you want to go in life.
I really believe that GCSE’s have changed for the worse; I don’t think it’s because they are harder but simply because they encompass your whole life for two years. If society is trying to broaden our knowledge and create mature adults then why not let them pursue their talents and passions or even just let them have time with family?
To all students reading this, GCSE level or not. I want you all to know that you are smart no matter what grades you get or have, that we know you work so hard and that you will get where you want to go in life. You will never be a “failure” to me or the ones who love you. Congratulations to all the students taking their exams this year; you’ve done so well and I promise that the hard work you have put in shall reward you in the end.
If you take anything from this, remember to breathe and enjoy life, you are only a teenager once and your mental health is never worth the stress and pressure of exams.
This article first appeared in the Grimsby Telegraph on 4th June 2019.
Article by Young Reporter Alex Greenwood.