Sunday, 28 August 2016

The pressures of Education


I guess this post is following on from my last post, in a way, except more focussed on university than my overall education. From a young age it was drummed into my head that it was so important to attend university. When I was completing my GCSEs, it felt like all anyone ever talked about was how important exams were, how you had to do well, how they would affect your whole life... The list could literally go on forever. The pressure is immense and it seemed like no one wanted to discuss options outside of further study and so I chose to do A-Levels. During A-Level it was a similar mountain of pressure; however this time it was all towards pushing everyone towards the path to university. At my school it was almost a taboo to not attend university. On results day there were teachers everywhere begging those unlucky enough to have got shit grades to somehow manage to still attend university by pushing them through the clearing process.

I applied to university for a number of reasons; 

1. Fear of the Unknown (e.g the real world)
2. Studying was all I knew at that point
3. Pressure from friends, family, school
4. Future career prospects

I was so sucked into the school system I felt that it was something I wanted to continue studying and I thought that university was the way to go. As you grow older the dreaded question becomes 'what do you want to do when you're older?' Actually for me, this was a fairly simple solution. I wanted to teach art and so university seemed like the obvious choice to do so. In fact I was so sure that I would teach that I had already mapped out how I assume my life would be. Basically the plan was, do an art foundation year, complete an art degree and then complete a PGCE and then be a teacher. In reality, life is never easy and rarely goes in the direction that we expect.

I really struggled with mental health during my time at university and got little help other than 'just deal with it' from the majority of people, which really wasn't the most helpful form of input given to me. As a result of this, my grades did suffer and during my interviews for PGCE I panicked and probably came across as a massive trainwreck (which I probably was, looking back). However now, I'm actually relieved that my life didn't go plan; I learnt that the cliché 'everything happens for a reason' is a definite truth. I've realised that I don't have a passion to teach and I also doubt that I have the confidence or the mental strength to do so. However I do still want to engage with learning and I'd love to work in a museum or gallery.

I would say that the massive flaw within our schooling system in the UK at the moment is that many schools are desperate to hit their targets in terms of results and number of pupils being accepted into university that many students are missing out on information on other options. If I could go back and change my plans, I definitely would have looked into options outside of university, or at least taken some time out to fully decide what I wanted to study and learn more about myself before jumping in at the deep end. The immense pressure to succeed and consistently deliver is definitely something which many students at any learning level struggle with. Although I was always average, the pressure still existed; ultimately I've learnt as I've got older, average is me and that's ok. I just wish that the schooling system had encouraged me to accept that years ago.

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