Friday 24 November 2017

Exam stress and errors are a lesson in reality

We do our young adults no favours by protecting them from life, writes Emer O'Kelly

It's impossible not to smile as you watch them: those hordes of young men and women piling out through various gates, their school uniforms scruffy, outgrown (not worth replacing, you see, at this stage) and incongruous on their now-adult frames. All that hope for life to come, that deafening exuberance as they compare notes, their mood as throat-catchingly beautiful as they are, going through the ritual gates of adulthood that is the Leaving Certificate exam. Life will never be the same again, whether their results are superb, plodding, or disastrously disappointing.

They know it, too, even though various school counsellors (and most decent-minded parents) will have told them that, at the end of the day, "it's only an exam". But it's the exam that for most of them will map out the future course of their lives. Yes, some of them will know deep in their subconscious minds that they'd prefer not to get the points for medicine or law; because what they really want to do is be a landscape gardener or carpenter. But mum and dad have invested their hopes in their becoming a "professional" because they themselves weren't lucky enough to get a good formal education, and want to live their dreams through their children.

Some of them will have been beating themselves up for years because they wanted to be a veterinary surgeon, but have been advised, gently or otherwise, that they have no hope of ever getting the points, and will settle for being a dog warden, only to go through life always feeling that it was a very poor second, despite being able to work with the animals they love.

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