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Competition-Games v. Exams: Has the government got it wrong

Milla Lawson discusses the government's priorities in education

Over recent years the government has been steadily reducing the number of compulsory hours spent on the games field by school children, claiming that it creates competition which is stressful to the kiddies. At the same time they introduce a new system of examining: AS levels. A system which supposedly introduces more choice as to subjects, moving us closer to the European Baccalaureate, but which, in reality, means that 16 to 18 year olds spend an extra year ruled by examination stress.

It is obvious the Labour government are not thinking such decisions through. In a country where juvenile obesity is on the rise and Diabetes is increasing amongst teenagers and children the reduction of compulsory hours spent doing P.E. can do little to remedy the situation, if not downright exacerbating it. We all (except the liars and the athletics amongst us) remember the torture of P.E. Whether swimming or football, rounders or lacrosse; being pitted against the rest of your form in cold water or on a cold field can rarely be classed as fun. Despite the privations and discomfort of the weekly torture that was Games, it nevertheless created a “soldiers-in-combat” feeling of solidarity amongst those who hated it and gave rise to a large number of “do you remember…”s for school reunions. The exercise was good for you physically, the adversity was strengthening mentally and once in a while it threw up a sport you were actually good at.

In contrast public exams are terrifying, supremely stressful and enjoyable only to the swots and the over-confident (or those who really hated homework). There was little wrong with the previous arrangement of a set of exams marking the conclusion of two years’ work- those were bad enough, but to subject teenagers to three years of consecutive public examinations creates a tension that would make a well balanced adult unhappy, let alone over-grown children suffering from the mental ravages of one of the most unsettling periods of adjustment a human being will have to make in their life.

Public examinations create an atmosphere of stress and competition, this can’t be good for anyone, so why does the government subject adolescents to this type of competition when competition is so unhealthy? Maybe the situation should be reviewed and kids should start freezing their knees on the games pitches again, with examinations reduced to the bare minimum necessary to assess their academic standard. I would really like to hear some more opinions on this subject.

 

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