Examination Tests and Results Are a Major Part of School Life – But can the obsession go too far

Every year examinations result in high expenditure from the Government. It is a major industry and costs the taxpayer many millions of pounds a year. In recent years the Government has associated themselves more with the education system and has become more involved with the examination regime. However it has been argued that the Government have involved themselves in something which they know little about and should remain concerned with the politics of the country. The recent introduction of AS and A2 exams has received much discussion within educational boards.

AS levels were introduced by the Government to widening the academic achievements by pupils and open up more career opportunities. It is hoped that our educational system will be similar to that in the Republic of Ireland. However the price which will be paid for increased qualifications will be the pressures placed on pupils and teachers alike to get the course finished in time for modules. In theory the rewards are salubrious but in practise it is unrealistic. Neither the resources nor teaching time are available for such an extensive syllabus.

These lacks of necessities, which the Government has failed to consider, will all result in increase stress on the pupil. In my opinion I am unable to see this type of examination lasting long and I feel that the Government should leave the decisions of examinations to those who are most qualified for the position. Our examination process begins at the very early age of 5 and tests the child’s ability of English and Maths. This test is to show the child’s ability in comparison to the rest of the class. This is the continuing reason for examination right through our lives.

It has been estimated by Geoffrey Carver, a member of the PAT, that overall in total, students are requested to sit a minimum of 75 examinations in their education life and this number is heightened depending on the career path which is chosen. This figure only includes examinations carried out under strict conditions and where pressure of preparation and performance are analysed. With such a high percentage of school life revolved around examinations and results an obvious resulting consequence would be the uncontrollable anxiety of stress.

The levels of stress are fast becoming one of the major health factors, which can contribute to an unhealthy body and maybe even an early death. When stress is mentioned today it is rarely associated with school children especially those in primary and secondary education. However this is only a view taken by those who are not closely associated with the education system. To those who do not witness the subject syllabus and content they would be unable to believe how much is expected of pupils at such a young age.

Many pupils would often be told “To enjoy school life they are the best days of your lives. For many it is a dreaded nightmare which must be faced everyday, from attendance at school right through to the amount of homework and coursework which must be done. Adults associate stress and pressure with working lives where I am sure there is a great deal. However this highlights that the stress suffered by students will not end when they finish their education but will continue into the unforeseeable future. This can be a daunting view for someone trying to cope with stress. The concern of stress has not only been highlighted by pupils but also by teachers and parents.

Concerned parents worry about the effect of stress on both the emotional and physical health of their child. I believe that they witness the symptoms more as they may only come to light when the child is out of the school environment. This highlights the need for a revamp in the system and the question asked where is it going wrong? It is extremely fortunate that many are lucky enough to receive the help and support which they need from schools and family. But some however feel that their lives are not worth living due to the amount of pressure they are under.

Recently it was reported how an 18-year-old pupil felt he was unable to complete his A-levels. He entered his examination room placed two pencils up his nose and banged his head repeatedly off the desk which resulted in his instant death. This disturbing incident is just one of many which occur each year in our country and every year this number increases particularly in the months leading up to the examinations. It highlights the fact that there is a very thin line between a state of panic and attempted suicide.

Recently there have been many debates over the 11+ process and whether or not it should be abolished. This has been considered for the past number of years and it has been decided that it will be replaced in two years time with an alternative system. I feel that putting an eleven-year-old child through such an ordeal is dreadful. To those who have sat the exam in the past, it will now seem relatively minor compared to examinations taken since and yet to be taken in the future. But to a child in a primary school this is their key to the “big” school.

There is such a build- up to this test that it would be abnormal for a child not to feel the pressure of it. Practise papers and assignments have been the main focus of work for the past two years and all that work depends on two examinations. It seems very unfair. This could be said for all examinations but there are two considerations we must take into account. (1) The age difference of P. 7 and students studying for GCSEs and other examinations. (2) Before sitting our GCSE examination we have already achieved marks through our coursework. The 11+ examinations do not have this.

Pupils in primary school are still obviously children and the pressure of examinations is an unfair burden to inflict on this young age. They have still a lot to witness and experience before they need to consider their future careers. Therefore I do not see the purpose of examinations on children at this stage of their school years or how this unnecessary pressure and stress will be beneficial in their future lives. The question needs to be asked, “Why have examinations become so pressurised and who is placing this pressure on our young people? ”

A little pressure and stress is said to be good for us as it pushes us to reach our full potential. However once this limit of pressure is over-reached it can be extremely damaging to our children. In a report by the NCPTA they say pupils feel under pressure for three reasons: 1) Schools want to achieve good results for the purpose of performance tables. 2) Exam and revision aids to help parents support their children are widely available. 3) Parents want their children to do well at school. Performance tables are becoming more and more competitive with higher targets being set and reached every year.

This is increasing the competitiveness between schools and the extra pressure that is being placed on teachers is then being automatically passed onto their pupils. There is a feeling among the students that if they do not perform well they are in turn letting their school and its reputation down. Also within families and relatives there is a lot of pressure especially if the child is the youngest of a high achieving family or if a student has relations doing the examinations in the same year.

Though not intentionally, results will be compared and if the standard is low compared to another’s then failure will be felt by the examinee. Parents and relations want the best for the student’s future career and so feel that they need to push them to get good results, but this can have a destructive effect on the young person and result in long term damage. In recent years there has been an increased obsession with performance and measurement and if we are not careful this obsession will show disastrous effects in the next generation.

Examinations are seen by many, especially the less academic, as a means of singling out and humiliation in front of others. This can be clearly seen in a class were different academic level students are taught together and this can be very embarrassing for some. Students who do not perform well may feel like failures and could become very depressed. This could lead to a much more serious matter and possibly suicide attempt. In conclusion I would state that examinations are a very necessary part of school life and every pupil should be encouraged to reach their fullest potential.

However it is the ever increasing level of pressure and the importance of high achievement which can have a damaging and lasting effect on a student. In an ideal world students would be encouraged to obtain the best examination level possible to them whilst also enjoying these very important and fundamental years. If the pressure of ‘examination preparation’ could be lessened and if time were available for students to become involved in non-academic subjects, then maybe the level of stress would decrease for some students. Anything which could lighten this burden could only be good.