Saturday 17 March 2018

Dr Ciara Kelly: If you could give your kids one gift, it would be resilience

Dr Ciara Kelly. Photo: David Conachy
Dr Ciara Kelly. Photo: David Conachy
Exam stress helps build resilience

Ciara Kelly

And so new research reveals that three-quarters of secondary school students are suffering from exam stress. Many of them feel the current systems of exams leading up to the Leaving Cert is putting them under real mental strain, and when asked what could be done, various ideas were put forward by the students that weren't unreasonable - like time out for mindfulness during the day and some kind of increased continuous assessment or indeed broader parameters for assessment. So their school careers aren't solely judged on how they perform in an exam hall, for two weeks in early June, after six years of full-time study.

So far so good I hear you say - anything that makes things a little easier on them must be a good thing. But part of me wonders is stress really something we should be trying to protect them from? The Leaving Cert today isn't hugely different from when I did it nearly 30 years ago. (Apart from grade inflation making it slightly easier to get higher marks now). Back then it was still the hardest exam you would ever sit - evidenced by how many of us still experience 'that dream' to this day. The one where you're sitting your Leaving but you haven't a clue what's coming up on the exam and you may or may not be naked.

It still decided whether or not you would get into college or university post-school - although there were fewer places then and your parents had to pay eye-watering fees and were mostly totally broke because of crippling mortgage and tax rates so they were fairly unconcerned about exam stress and just expected you to get on with it.

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