As it is nearing the end of exam season, and as one of my very good friends is becoming increasingly convinced that every exam board is out to get her, I’m going to explain to you kids my thoughts on the education system, and how my general views towards it is just a bit.. well… downright fucking negative.
Now, I really enjoyed school. I really, truly did. I like learning about new stuff, and I like finding out all this new information about how the world works and how to read between the lines of poets and authors to figure out how they had a really messed up psyche (Angela Carter, that means you.)
What I don’t like is being examined on my knowledge of the subject. Yes, I understand that in order to track your progress of how well you’re coping with learning all this new stuff, you need to be tested on it from time to time, and my school did this a hella lot. However, each individual test had so much pressure riding on me, placed on by the teachers, it sometimes felt like I was drowning in it all. Shame really, I loved the subjects I picked at A Level!
Biology was awesome; I found it so cool to learn about the make up of everything, and what processes go on in the body to make us work the way we do. So much so that when I went to the science museum on a first date, I geeked out completely and proceeded to stand and explain DNA and mRNA to him. This was only like at the end of last year… Science rules, okay!?
As much as I loved biology, the test papers were difficult as hell, and every single time exam season drew close, and past papers were thrown around, I’d get into a cold sweat and absolutely everything I ever thought I knew disappeared from my mind. I have NO idea why that was, I just literally can not do exams. I can’t handle them, at all! Which caused me to fail my A Level in Biology.
Psychology was AMAZING! The human mind is actually fascinating and terrifying all at once. I learnt that obedience to authority is actually a thing that exists, even when the authoritative figure isn’t even proven to be authoritative figure, but is literally just a dude in a white coat – Milgram’s study with electric shocks taught me that (and scared the bejeezus out of me!) I enjoyed pretty much every single topic we covered, and that included learning about the different approaches to psychology. Yes, it was a total pain in my arse to remember them all, but it was still pretty fun to learn them all and compare them to each other.
But then exam time came around, yet again, and I accidentally shat out my brain and could barely remember how to hold a pen, thus causing me to fail another subject.
English Literature has been a favourite subject of mine since I started it at GCSE level. I’ve always loved reading, ever since I can even remember. I don’t understand people who say that they don’t like reading – my only response to that is: it’s not that you don’t like reading, you just haven’t found the right book yet. So keep on reading until you find it!
If it wasn’t for studying English literature, I would never have read one of my favourite novels of all time – To Kill A Mockingbird. Honestly, I recommend that book to everyone, it’s brilliant, and if you read it and don’t like it then you need to just ship yourself off to somewhere far, far away from me. It genuinely pissed me off, so much, when I read that Michael Gove was having it dropped from the syllabus, so children can focus more on ‘British’ writers. Yo, Gove, you decide to drop a novel, where the general consensus amongst EVERY ENGLISH TEACHER AND STUDENT is that it is one of the best novels to ever be published, just so you can force more Shakespeare into the curriculum? Claps. 4. U. That level of stupidity is too high for me to even comprehend, so I can’t say much else on the matter.
Anyway, getting back to it, exam season rolled around and I was once again left with my heart in my stomach and my stomach in my shoes, struggling to remember how to spell my name. I failed English Literature.
I poured my heart and soul into revising for my exams, and I got nothing back to show for it. Nothing. Okay, I got awful grades but that doesn’t count! I’ve been speaking to many people about the system, and a lot of people seem to agree with me that exams and exam boards don’t want to see how well you know the subject, at all, they want to see how good your memory is.
An exam doesn’t measure your knowledge on the matter, it measures your capability to memorise and regurgitate information. If you can’t remember a whole bunch of formulas on the off chance that one might pop in a question on the paper, then you’re screwed. If you can’t remember the exact study and the year conducted for a psychology experiment and what approach it supports and why, then you’re fucked. If you can’t remember a critics name and what they say and the context they said it in, oh and also the quote, then, my friend, you need to be taken out the oven because you are done.
Messing up your exams can make it seem like there is little to no point in carrying on with your life. I certainly felt close to that when I got my results. I think it’s because of this ridiculously stupid notion that’s pounded into us from the age that we picked up a book – go to university or your life is over. Let me tell you something – I went to university. For a year. I dropped out because it was god-awful and a complete waste of my time.
But that was me. There are some people who love it, and those that have to go – those who want to pursue a fancy-pants career that requires a bit of paper to say that you can remember a few text books. Because at the end of the day that’s all a degree really is. Having a degree doesn’t mean as much as it used to anymore. The rate of unemployed graduates is rapidly increasing every year which just goes to show that you’re not guaranteed a job even if you do go through the minimum three years. Which sucks, hard, but is the unfortunate truth.
If you don’t know what you want to do with your life, then there’s honestly not much point in going to university. You just need to realise that there is absolutely nothing wrong with going back later, or even not going at all (especially with that rise in fees a couple of years back, like seriously? Government, you actually suck.)
There is so much more to life than education – go out and have fun! Spend as much time with your parents and your pets cause they’re not gonna be around forever. Earn money to keep you going, don’t earn money because it’s what you must do. When you go out and get a job, you damn well make sure that it’s something you’re going to enjoy cause you’ll be stuck there for the rest of your life. Don’t stress over little things that don’t have an affect on who you are. Get enough sleep and look after your teeth, because manky teeth are nasty. And make sure you eat your vegetables, because y’know, it’s healthy… And if you’re eating right then your brain will work better, bringing your chances of passing your exams up, ever so slightly.
And eat almonds. They’re good for you.
If you work hard enough and try your best there is absolutely nothing more that anyone can ask you to do. What’s done is done, and if it didn’t work out quite the way you wanted it to – pick yourself up and either try again, or move on. If you come out of your exams feeling like you’ve just signed a death sentence for yourself, then go home, eat some alphabetti spaghetti on toast, have a nap and wake up feeling refreshed (or wake up feeling disorientated and not knowing what galaxy you’re in) and then carry on revising for the rest of your exams.
I mean, if you’re doing it then at least try.
But there is nothing wrong with fucking up your A Levels. Although it will probably take you a while to realise that. I promise you, everything is going to be okay!