In the car on the way to the gym, me and my big sister got talking. At first it was just casually about exams and just doing my best, but then it turned a bit into the actual logic behind school.
Now, I know people have been saying this for a long time, but the education system is really (and I mean REALLY) messed up. Let’s take GCSE’s for an example. So you study anywhere between 6 – 12 subjects for 2 years, and at the end of those two years you have between 10 – 20 exams on those subjects. These exams are spread over the course of a month, during which you only have ONE chance to do well or that’s practically it. You’ve messed up.
Now, before I even start looking at the problems with the physical exams, let’s look at the two years of schooling. So you come into school for up to 190 days a year, (more than half of the year, excluding holidays etc.) and let’s say you learn something essential each day. The minimum required attendance rates for most state schools are anywhere between 85 – 95%, so that means at least 161 days present at school. This means that you have lost up to 30 days of ‘essential topics’, so you now have to use your own time to catch up with whatever work you get.
Of course, in every lesson you do (let’s average and say 9) you have a book/textbook or even both. So that means you have 18 books in your locker/cubby hole or whatever. You then have to do homework each night from at least one lesson, so that requires you to be organised with your books everyday, so when you take them home you have to bring them back if you have a lesson the next day. If you forget/lose your timetable, then there is a high possibility that you could get a detention.
Detentions run for at least 15 minutes after school. They could last as long as 1 hour 30 minutes, which is an extra 1 hour 30 minutes which could have been spent doing productive homework or catching up on missed lessons.
We haven’t even gotten to the worst bit yet.
There are 7 different types of learning: Visual, Kinesthetic, Aural (Auditory), Verbal, Logical, Solitary and Social. What’s messed up is that only about 3 of these are actually applied in education. There are large elements of Visual present – classroom displays and such – evident Aural (auditory) – teachers speaking or talking over a powerpoint – and also Social, as school mostly forces human interaction.
But what about the other 4? There is very little chance for Kinesthetic learning, except for in Science with practicals sometimes. But most classes are taught with a powerpoint and teacher’s voice. And what about verbal? We’re just told that we should be quiet, that we should work in silence and not distract others. Now I’m not being funny, but I’m somebody who can’t work in complete silence. I don’t DISRUPT the class like some teachers try and make out, but some students, like me can’t actually function in absolute silence.
Neither does this incorporate very much logical thinking, as we are taught to basically just digest everything we need to know and not really told WHY we need to learn it. The main logical lesson we are taught is Maths, and not only do I believe that some of the things which they teach us are absolutely USELESS, but also that they don’t encourage much logicality. I mean, seriously, is looking at a triangle and trying to figure out a missing angle going to immediately make you think, “HEY! Let me use inverse sin!” (If you say, of course, then you’re the real MVP). And of course, if you’re a solitary learner rather than a social learner, well… you’re stuffed.
OK. So let’s say you survive all those issues and actually manage to get some information down in that grey matter. You’ve survived until the end of those two dreadful years, and narrowly avoided several panic attacks and anxiety attacks. (That in itself is an issue, school shouldn’t be making us stressed). You get your exam timetable and everything’s going great, revision is fabulous and perfect.
And then your mum dies.
Now, not to be insensitive or try and make you depressed or offend anybody, but as much as this is sad, there is literally NOTHING you can do about it. The most the teachers can do is tack some extra time onto the end of your exams, and maybe you’ll be able to get the grades you were predicted. And in no way am I saying the loss of a loved one fully impedes the ability to take exams, but for many people, it will be an emotional battle. Therefore, it is a serious issue.
Then on the morning of your first exam you wake up and realise that you have appendicitis. Crumbs. You’re rushed into hospital and after some complications, you’re there for an entire MONTH. This means you’ve missed almost 8 of your exams. Great. Now all you’re going to see in those spots is your mock grade from Christmas, and you totally didn’t revise for any of them… When you finally get back into school, you manage to make it to one of your afternoon exams. The paper is put before you, you open it and then… That’s it. The words blur in front of you, nothing makes sense. The question paper asks you about a complex process and your pen stays frozen in your hand. “NO!” You want to scream to the beady, suspicious invigilators. “I know this! I got full marks on this in my mock!” But then they call “Pens down.” And you’re done. You haven’t even gotten through the whole paper.
Some people are just NOT exam people, OK school? Some people would do better if you gave them aural tests of their knowledge, some people work well with coursework or some sort of long-term project. Because let’s be real here – most of our future relies on our emotional and physical well-being at the end of 2 years, and there is NO way to predict this so far ahead. We have NO idea what will happen to us a month, a week, a day or even hours before we go into that exam hall, and we don’t know if we’ll come out on the other side feeling so confident about ourselves.
And all because of these things.
Fast forward and you’re only studying 4 (or maybe 5) subjects for A-Levels. But you’ve already done lots of subjects for GCSEs, so why does the number suddenly drop? Because maybe, just maybe, not all these subjects matter as much as our teachers like to make out. English being compulsory, yes I understand. Maths and Science… my understanding slightly wavers here. We can live without understanding Photosynthesis and Speed vs. Velocity and all that. I am in no way saying cut these out of the education system, because some students really thrive in these subjects! There are so many wonderful girls I’m blessed to know who are determined to be scientists or mathematicians of some sort, and good on you gals! But also we have to understand some students do the exact opposite. And it’s not because they’re ‘dumb’ or stupid or any other of those labels, but because they just don’t understand the topics.
There’s no way around it. If you can’t learn the way they want you to learn, then that’s it. There’s no other way of learning, or passing exams or anything. You just have to accept that you will be labelled as thick for the rest of your life and you’ll never be able to get into Oxbridge to study History, even though you got A*’s in all your Humanities subjects, only because you just about scraped a D in GCSE Maths and English, and let’s not even TALK about your Science grade…
Is this fair? No. Is it going to change? Most likely not. And if it does, certainly not for the better.
And while I’m at it, thanks a bunch Michael Gove. We couldn’t have asked for a better Minister of Education. Hats off to you.