What’s more important – your current health or future earning potential? Any sane adult would most likely reply health. And yet, it’s these same adults who impose GCSEs, A Levels and student loans on us. These loans were introduced 28 years ago, and depression and anxiety in teenagers has increased by 70% in the last 25 years. Of course mental health issues don’t require catalysts of any sort, but can this really be such a huge coincidence? Thirty years of debt. Thirty years. We’ll be paying off this money until we’re fifty years old. It’s not our grades which matter – it’s our privilege. The ability to pay over £9,000 annually is being prioritised over ability itself.
By encouraging such competitive values over educational ones, it’s no wonder some of us think grades matter so much that we’re willing to sacrifice our own current well being for the “ticket to a good future”. “It’ll determine the rest of our lives”, they say. But will it contribute to our future happiness? In my humble opinion, grades don’t matter if you’re comparing it to how much happiness matters. And we shouldn’t disregard self love for a love of a future we don’t know for certain.
Surprise, surprise, our full time education takes up a large chunk of our lives as teenagers. So why aren’t we being listened to when 86% of us say that the education system should be reformed? It may not be the “real world” (which we’re told is so much more difficult of course), but it is our world.
Speaking of reality, the unrealistic expectations many teachers force upon us and consequently ingrain into our own psyche make for a society of perfectionists… at a time when we’re told that nothing we do is good enough. It’s an intellectual hunger games which no one can win. Of course education should be compulsory – I just don’t think a stressful situation should be. At least in the “real world” we can quit our jobs if we feel there’s too much pressure being put upon us. Even here, at A Level, it’s a common feeling that quitting is simply not an option.
Talking to my Dutch cousin at Christmas, I tried getting onto the relatable topic of stress – we’re the same age, after all, we should be going through the same thing. But he just couldn’t relate. Not having gone through an equivalent to GCSEs, and only needing a pass to guarantee him a place at any uni, he was practically pressure free. He agreed that the system over here is far too pressurised – and yet, the UK has never made it into the top 12 of education rankings. Netherlands are higher up in the tables than us in that respect, but also rank 6th in the World for happiness – we’re 19th. And that’s with a grading system in which grades don’t matter so much – they shouldn’t here, either.