Children of all ages have heard their parents’ favourite phrase, summarizing their nostalgia and regret, that they ever had a ‘life ruiner’ or ‘child’ as some more civilized folk might call it. The phrase that creates a roll of eyes, a hand on hip pose, and a sigh as all teenagers group together in desperation at the words … “That’s not what it was like in my day.”
I, of course, have been targeted and fallen subject to such a lecture. In the “good old days” when children would be “outside playing” instead of creating the same claw-shaped talon – that has become instinctive – of the subconscious, simple … scroll.
Unfortunately, I believe that our parents have had a lot more time than us ‘life ruiners’ to discover and enjoy their social surroundings, as schoolwork was not such a focus. In the current situation (thank you, Tony Blair!), it is considered essential to have a degree from a university in order to get a ‘respectable, well-paid job’. This leads to many people going to university for the sake of it, feeling socially obliged that it is the sensible thing to do – not because they are fascinated by the subject and learning more about it. In order to get into a strong university that means: GCSEs; AS Levels; A2 Levels. Furthermore, in order to get into favorable universities, there are further commitments: Duke of Edinburgh; Young Enterprise; Sport; Drama etc.. Therefore, on a typical day, after spending six to eight hours (depending on the sector) in lessons, learning, investigating and experimenting, pupils are expected to do some sort of activity. Whether it’s performing in a school play, playing sport, or volunteering – it is still expected. After commuting home, where one might expect to have a break or relax, there is then more schoolwork, which sometimes is in addition to some kind of ‘paperwork’ for an extra activity.
In this respect, education focuses less on bettering oneself and enjoying learning, and more on passing exams – that lead to more exams – and more exams – and eventually a degree for a job that you had to start deciding at the age of 15. The cyclical, mind-numbing process does not allow students of today to embrace their own interests and experience.
Although the British education system encourages a wide variety of activities, and does create more educated students, has the structure not gone too far that we become an exam factory? Does the system not allow students to do what they want to do, and have freedom in their education? Or to simply just be teenagers, free to make mistakes, enjoy their culture, and ‘mess around’ merely because there won’t be many other opportunities to do so?