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'How Can We Justify Torturing Our Teens With The Leaving Cert?'

By mariemadden

June 8, 2017 at 4:53pm

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Admit it, looking at the exam paper at the top of this article sent shivers down your spine.

It's that time of year again, when thousands of students across the country learn off paragraphs of useless information in a frantic bid to secure future employment.

This may sound cynical but essentially, that's what the Leaving Certificate in Ireland really consists of at the moment.

And as a nation, we're obsessed with it.

Prayers are being said across the country, mothers are making references to Áine down the road who got 550 points, the exams are being discussed everywhere from Twitter to television... there's no escape.

And that brings with it an incredible amount of pressure for the young teenagers who will be sitting through what can only be described as a torturous experience over the next few weeks.

In a time where we're all vigilant about mental health issues and the impact of sustained periods of stress, why is it that we can justify telling young teens that their entire future hinges on their performance over two weeks?

This Irish Times article looks at students who struggle with the mental demands associated with exams and it's absolutely TERRIFYING.

As adults, we know that anything from a bad night's sleep to personal issues can throw you off your game at work and there's a certain amount of understanding around this in any workplace.

Unfortunately, this is not a courtesy that is extended to our future professionals – who stand to lose their place in college and a year of their lives if they have an off-day.

That's not to mention the fact that the current system puts many students at a disadvantage, with those who suffer from learning difficulties or those who are unable to afford grinds fighting an uphill battle.

In fact, the Leaving Cert format fosters a skill set that is entirely alien to what is required for success in the working world.

Employers want staff that are flexible and creative in their approach, people with new ideas rather than those who repeat something that they overheard in a meeting or read in a book.

So why are we training them to do the opposite?

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Of course, this isn't a new conversation.

The shortcomings of our exam system have been debated year-on-year ad nauseum and yet, here we are again in the same position.

While continuous assessment has its flaws, there has to be a happy medium that provides a good snapshot of a student's ability without the pressure of the current system.

Anxiety is the most common mental health issue experienced by teenagers and creating such an intense culture around academic success is, without doubt, going to push more young people into this category.

Our underfunded child and adolescent mental health services are already under pressure, it's time to make one positive change to ease the strain on our teens.

READ NEXT: 14 Times That An A1 In Irish Is Going To Come In Really Handy


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