Wednesday, 13 August 2008

A few thoughts...

I could write about the war and ensuing events between Georgia and Russia, or about the Olympics, or about a whole host of other topics. But I'm am on holiday as of Friday and will write a number of blogs ready to post when I come back. Right now, as an 18 year old A Level student, I have one thing on my mind: results.

The day of reckoning is tomorrow and, try as I might, I cannot avoid it. Today has felt like the 24th of December - not long to go but time, just for today, has decided to slow right down. I have friends who's futures are riding on tomorrow. I'm lucky enough to be virtually guaranteed my place in university thanks to a combination of a low offer and excellent results in modules I've already taken. This is a rare position to be in and I'm still scared. Less about my future, more about feeling that I could have worked harder, but most teenagers up and down the country are scared about their futures.

The majority will do ok, achieving what they expected or, if they're lucky, better than expected. There will, however, be those who do not succeed, those who achieve less or significantly less than expected. This is an inevitable consequence of examinations and, some would argue, life in general. In fact, life, by and large, does not tolerate failure. Evolution is based on this. This does not mean that the process of failure has to be as harsh for us, supposedly civilised 'human beings', above mere animals, as it is for the rest of nature.

Those who underacheive tomorrow will not die because of their failures, but their results will mean that they may consider themselves to be lesser than their peers, the successful ones. The lonliness of undeachieving whilst all your friends are celebrating must have a profound effect on a number of teenagers every year. Hopefully I won't be in this position tomorrow, but somebody will be.

This suffering does not occur in a vaccuum, however. It occurs to the background of nostalgia-ridden, middle-aged members of the population who, through a combination of jealousy of youth and rose-tinted spectacles, believe that A Levels are getting easier. They may be. They may not. The fact is if a job needs doing someone can be trained to do it - the content of A Levels is rarely used in later life, if we are to believe other experienced points of view. The annual attack on the standard of A Levels does not change the difficulty of the exams, nor does it make anybody feel any better. The only thing it does achieve is creating additional grief for those who have underachieved.

By all means we should improve the standards of education. We should aim to improve year by year. The widespread derision of the current difficulty of A Levels is not constructive and only worsens the situation for those unlucky enough to underachieve in the education system. Come A Level Results Day this derision could do additional unnecessary damage to self-esteem, self-belief and future success. Those labelled as 'failures' often fail. Those labelled as 'failures' in a 'failing' system stand no chance.

Disappointment is inevitable. Devaluing the system from which disappointment arises is unnecessary.