Abby’s Blog: Learning the hard way…

AS we enter the summer months, the majority succumb to the golden glow of heat and its kaleidoscopic hues, but for many young people, those blissful summer months are replaced with the constant recoil of exams. I would immediately challenge a person who claims exams are leisurely and undemanding. Even those most academically gifted cannot affirm such a absurd statement. This is why I found myself utterly indignant, as well as ireful, when I came across an article stating that Watchdog are claiming exams are “too easy”, alleging that there is a perception exam standards “aren’t what they used to be.”

Scores of middle aged individuals have unfavourably compared the exams currently being sat to their exams they took several decades back. In my opinion, this claims are ludicrous because there is absolutely no use in comparing standards from years ago – it’s a different world we live in so the credibility of this debate is shattered. While we’re at it, let’s compare the Poll Tax riots in the 1990s to when Richard III implemented them in the 1370s! Of course to do that is meaningless because the social, political and economic situation was metamorphosed over time.

I have been entered for a total of twelve exams over an eight week period. For my English Literature, I had to memorise my annotations from fifty page anthology and a play, and then write for a solid two and a half hours. Whilst this is something I immensely enjoyed, it was far from “easy”, even though I’m predicted an A*.

Our perception of what is easy and what is hard appears to be extremely distorted. For my Triple Science qualifications, I’ve taken a total of twelve exams and for my two History exams, I have to memorise five topics in detail, any of which could come up. Long gone are the days when by passing all your exams got you a job with a mere snap of your fingers. My friends are elated at getting a job as a shelf stacker at their local corner shop.

If we kept exams the same, regardless of the world around us, then we are not adapting to the environment that holds jobs for us. What a sad state of affairs this is where we have to belittle those who achieve good grades, and who work tirelessly to achieve said grades, and are telling them actually, it’s because exams are “too easy.” In the modern era, people have bigger and better career aspirations, which require the high grades that are synonymously linked to prestigious occupations. Take the contestants on the Apprentice: all have their own successful business but they have a clear cut passion to achieve more than they already possess. Does that scream slipping standards? I think not. It highlights their diligence more than anything.

I believe the focal predicament lies with the intimidation element created by our own society. We are much too afraid to speak up about our opinions should we spark controversy or encourage any sort of media pandemonium, therefore we get articles like this that claim exams are “too easy”, when young people know for a fact this is not the case.

The classic debate of “robot thinking” constantly amuses me. Of course we have to teach certain things exactly the same but the idea is that students use what they have learnt in accordance to their individual situations and capabilities. I can’t understand what these people desire; a different education system for every individual? Though education is significant, we do have to bring it into the realm of reality. No one has actually defined what is “too easy” and what is “too hard.” It seems utterly ridiculous that adults are claiming exams are “too easy” when they’re not the ones sitting them. Would it be right for me to walk into a job that I cannot relate to and then publicly slam it, with a blatant disregard for those who work extremely hard in the same job, and claim it is simply “too easy”?

When I’m on assignment for the Essex Enquirer, getting good grades in English doesn’t give me the confidence to go up to complete strangers and ask them questions, or have the common sense to organise myself and manage my time logically. Every single one of my classmates have been taught the exact same thing as what I’ve been taught, but if they were asked to write an article, we would all have different pieces that reflect and convey our diverse opinions. Therefore, the gaps present in exams are filled in by our experience. Watchdog are insinuating is that these gaps need to be filled in by exams and nothing but exams, and it is the gaps that make them “too easy.”

How would we solve the issue of unemployment if students are leaving the safe and secure institution of school and going to find a job with Us and Gs? Of course I am not saying those who get Us and Gs are unemployable and am in no way demeaning them, but those who get grades in the A/A* region will be able to find better jobs and that will allow their intellect to develop, particularly in a highly competitive industry or in a high intensity environment. Exams should never be too hard because if we all failed them, we wouldn’t get the opportunity to develop.

There is a very apparent lack of common sense to this argument. Not only is it financially impossible to cater for every child’s individual educational progression but it is physically impossible. Let’s bring this back down to reality shall we? A different world means different standards, not decreasing, just altered from what these adults at Watchdog sat when they were my age. If school is supposed to be stepping into the “real world” and Watchdog don’t want the examination standards to slip, is that indeed implying that the standards in the working world are set in stone and constantly monitored? Surely those who believe this are really living in their own little world.

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