Deadlines. Pressure. Exams. Stress. Repeat.
It seems we’ve managed to make it through another exam season, and as term restarts, you can already feel the tide of work approaching. Being stuck in this constant cycle of non-stop work, sleeplessness and worry really makes you think about the real lessons being taught to students today.
I’d like to say, firstly, that even though it may not always feel like it, having the opportunity to receive the level of education that we do in this country is a privilege which sets us apart from many others. I’m not just talking here about university degrees, but the A-Level and GCSE-levels too. Achieving an education at any level is, whilst tough, fundamental to our ability to think, question and criticise, our creation of experiences and memories, and the furthering of our social skills. All of these things help to prepare us for the world of work and our future lives beyond that. Why then, does it feel like such a burden? And why do we not feel rewarded?
The truth is, that now the education system is framed as a competition. And competition, whilst good and desirable for the most prestigious institutions in the country, can be harmful to students’ attitudes towards their academic performance, grades, consequently, their self-esteem. Students have to justify and be awarded their places at institutions which benefit from producing graduates of the highest level. Rather than all students feeling lucky to have furthered their knowledge and qualification level, we are pushed up against and constantly compared to each other, as well as ourselves. And now with more people than ever going to uni (which now seems expected, rather than being a choice), there’s even more pressure to make yourself stand out to prospective employers; whether this be by achieving an outstanding First Class degree, or partaking in additional work placements in order to gain experience. This constant, and arguably ever-increasing, level of stress among the country’s student body results in both physical and mental health consequences, as is now more frequently being brought to attention in the media, as an incredibly important issue which needs to be addressed.
Bringing this topic back to a more personal level, the following highlights my central point for writing this particular blog post. Do I like my degree course? Yes – I enjoy the course content and hearing about so many interesting aspects of the subject. Would I go through it again? Absolutely not. The truth is that the sheer amount of pressure I feel not just to maintain, but to constantly better my grades is suffocating. And maybe that is a result of my personal, tough expectations of myself, and my own view of my education rather than society’s view, but that does not depreciate its value. I cannot be the only person who thinks in this way: once I’ve set the bar with a good grade, there’s no excuse to not be able to reach that level again.
The fact is, that this way of thinking cannot all have come from myself – to some extent at least. We find ourselves in a system which has been developed to benefit from the instinctual nature of competition and a need to strive for perfection, no matter what the consequences.