All this for a grade on a page – one I’m told will define my future? Is it really worth it?
Despite hating this system and its effect on me, I still feel out of place for no longer subscribing to it so rigidly.
Prior to the lockdown, Mortal Fools’ latest touring performance ‘Relentless’ perfectly captured this experience of never-ending pressure, of getting ready for endless exams as a young person, of attempting to find your way through ‘normal’ life. The performance also shines a light on social struggles and the issues behind our education system.
‘Relentless’ draws from the experiences of our young Ensemble members, creating an incredibly personal piece of theatre commenting on everything that was wrong with the fast paced way of life and an education system pushing for achievement and productivity in spite of our needs, wants and the declining mental health of young people.
I once looked at exams as being something that everyone has to do, something that is ‘part of life’ which I should just knuckle down for. In recent months, from working on ‘Relentless’ to then witnessing the pandemic unfold, I have started to view the exam system in this different light.
Life really is relentless. I have spent the majority of the latter years of my time at school desperate for a breather from the stress of constant deadlines and its rigid routine – however now I have had my fair share of time off during lockdown, I don’t feel much better for it. Recently, I have found myself caught in two minds. Should I use this time to relax as much as humanly possible, or instead to succumb to the overpowering guilt about my lack of productivity?
I should be able to switch off, but I just can’t. I feel almost conditioned to believe that if I’m not doing something beneficial to my studies, then I’m not doing anything at all – I’m just wasting time.
There is a line from an opening scene of Relentless: “You are being judged on your ability to memorise and regurgitate information in a set time period – which will ultimately prepare you for later life’’.
This irony – that exams create a false situation which won’t actually be replicated in life – has stuck with me. I feel strongly that exams don’t prove anything. So why must they be undertaken by everybody?
That this year’s Year 11s and 13s await their grades without sitting exams in the first place surely has proven that they’re not necessary. Right now is time to rethink the place of exams in our school system – a system proving so detrimental to the mental health of young people.
After all, why should one exam or one bad day determine the rest of my life? I’ve heard the phrase “The new normal” being used a lot recently and it has made me wonder. We have become so accustomed to these systems, and they have been unchallenged for so long.