Stress, particularly on teenagers during periods of examination is a topic of some common argument.
Exams are a subject that tear the world of education down the middle; traditionalists often say that this was “the way things were done when we were young, why change it?” while many modern theorists would argue that this is the wrong approach, and it is infact reform that we should be seriously considering.
Firstly, the nature of the teaching. In modern day schools, much of the syllabus and curriculum is taught to children in order to pass an exam. This method, I feel, is fundamentally flawed.
By teaching to test, there is a problem in that rather than giving the students a broad, clear understanding of the topic from which to draw their own conclusions, a more specified, linear structure is taken to the lessons, with little or no variation from something one would expect to find within the realms of a GCSE Bitesize textbook. An increase in the amount of materials available to the student outside the classroom means that often, they are better encouraged to learn for themselves rather than relying on teaching staff to put the point across.
In practice, however, this means that often, a negative effect is had on the performance of the student; knowing full well that the information being broadcast to them is freely available elsewhere, there is now a tendency to “switch off” within lessons, leading to a more anarchic, passive style of learning.
Recently in Newcastle, a form of teaching was developed in that the lessons would be broken down into 10 minute chunks; 10 minutes on a subject, then 10 minutes of PE. This meant that not only were the children more attentive for that period, their levels of fitness also increased. However, this system showed very little in the way of improved exam results.
This was the problem; with different teaching methods, although the children may learn as much, the emphasis is not fully on the examinations themselves, leading to decreased results when it comes to putting pen to paper.
Obviously, examinations are the easiest way of measuring exactly how much each candidate has learned from a syllabus; however, it could also be argued that an increase of the percentage of marks given to the student for coursework would have a positive effect, in more ways than one.
This is because the students often complete coursework in the home; meaning they are taught a certain amount of self discipline, and naturally pick up a broader knowledge of the topic by trying to understand it without teaching staff there to “hit the nail directly on the head”.
Revolutionary teaching methods such as the PE example from Newcastle may be somewhat interesting at first glance, but without reform to the actual school system, any change to the teaching methods is almost pointless. Examinations themselves are the problem; they place too much emphasis on one-day performance, which in turn puts far too much pressure on students when they are going through emotionally and physically delicate stages of their life.
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