It was easy to predict the hectic scramble to produce league
tables during the month of my exam results. Unless, that is, you
live in Wales – where the assembly has taken the wise and
courageous step of dispensing with league tables as well as a great
deal of testing in schools, preferring to rely on the
professionalism of our teachers.
It seems that the Welsh have woken up to the distress that
league tables, and in consequence, exams have caused pupils such as
myself and my teachers. As Adrian Brown of Childline explained,
“Fear of failure and pressure to succeed can be immense”. Fear is
no hyperbolic term in this case.
While discussing exams recently, my friend talked about her time
with her psychiatrist. When asked why exams led her to self harm,
she said: “I take it doctor, you have never had to sit our A
In the past month there have been a number of reports of how
this growing pressure of school exams is having a terrible impact
on the mental well-being of teenagers, which can lead to
Tina Dziki, 15, died in June as a result of taking an overdose.
She left a suicide note that described a number of troubles
including anxiety about two GCSE exams she was due to take a year
early. Amy Burgess jumped from the top of a multi-storey car park
the day she was due to take her GCSEs. Tim Russell, 16, shot
Is it any wonder that many of us don’t enter higher
education when we have barely survived GCSEs? The number of
teenagers now on anti-depressants has increased fourfold since
Blair came to power – to 140,000. Pardon me if I churn out facts to
you, that is a product of the exams system as well.
To show how exams can take on such enormous significance in the
minds of intelligent young people we should turn to Japan. The
despondency induced by overwork has now led to an increase in
“karoshi”, which occurs when a person overworks themselves to the
point of death. I do not wish to accuse Blair’s government of
inducing karoshi upon us. However, I sense that unless the exams
system is reformed, the only way to describe the depressing,
overwhelming factory that is our exams system to a government that
is so clearly fond of hyperbola, is to say that we are experiencing
our own karoshi. We are not dying physically, but are becoming
exhausted teenagers who hate “learning”.
Mr. Blair, when you said “Education, education, education”, did
you really mean “exams, exams, exams”? If not can I suggest that
perhaps next year, school might become more than a means of
obtaining a grade on a piece of paper, and actually be conducive to
our learning and development as human beings?
Majdi Osman is 18 years old.