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.
Not to mention of course, the generation making policy decisions is the one that had a financially stable student life – grants encouraged them to go to university. Now, the ability to pay over £9,000 annually is being prioritised over ability itself. It’s not our grades which matter anymore – it’s our privilege.
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 your lives”, they say. But will it contribute to our future happiness? We shouldn’t disregard self love for the love of a future we don’t know for certain.
Full time education takes up a large chunk of young peoples’ lives. 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”, but it is the only world we’re exposed to for the first decade or so of our lives.
Speaking of reality – the unrealistic expectations forced upon us by the current educational system with ‘target grades’ and the like can get ingrained into our psyche at a very impressionable age. This makes for a society of children who grow up to be perfectionists, at a time when we’re told that nothing we achieve is quite good enough. It’s an intellectual hunger games which no one can win.
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. With a system where grades don’t matter so much, the Netherlands are higher up in the tables than us in that respect and they rank 6th in the World for happiness.
I’m not saying that education shouldn’t be compulsory – of course it should! 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. But even at A Level, it’s a common feeling that quitting is simply not an option.