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Falling through the Cracks of the Education System

Is the education system inclusive?

Books stacked up beyond your head, inferring the stress and amount of work it takes to complete education

From the age of 4 years old up until 16 years we are taught that exams define who you are. From such a young age we spend 6 hours a day, 5 days a week building up to the moment where we are sat at a desk, in a large hall of people, silent, and told this 1-hour paper will define our success in life. Are we wired to perform in such an intense environment? Does this system of standardized tests reflect a child's ability of learning, their ability to succeed and do well? Is this system inclusive of every individual on this planet?

Inclusivity of exams

Don’t get me wrong some people have a natural gift for exams. They can remember, and deliver on the spot, however, it's important to acknowledge not everyone is born with that gift, not everyone performs the same and that is normal. Let's take a couple of examples of why a certain individual may not perform as well as another. Perhaps an individual has some learning difficulties such as dyslexia where it takes them longer to process questions and their writing. On another side, children with ADHD who may struggle to keep focused in such an intense environment. Or maybe you’re an individual with anxiety who can'tbear the thought of being sat in a silent room with hundreds of individuals around you. For all of these instances, how can we expect those individuals to all perform the same as an individual without these additional needs. With that knowledge, I am led to question the inclusivity of the education system. These individuals are falling through the cracks of the education system, but what impact is this having on them?

The impact

So, what we have established so far is that the education system is kinda corrupt and is not inclusive of every individual and their needs. But what effect can this have? For a minute let's put ourselves in the shoes of our younger selves. You're 10 years old, at school and for the past 6 years of your life at school, you are failing tests and being told you need to do better. What goes through your mind? Perhaps what is wrong with me or why can't I do this like everyone else? Now let's skip ahead, you reach high school, and you are still not doing particularly well in your exams. You are then told constantly over and over your GCSEs define you. You need these in order to progress to the next stage of your life successfully.

Now we hopefully know now that this is not the case. From leaving high school and progressing into college and university that there are many routes we can take that involve various different styles of learning that you could pick suited best to you. But at that time, we did not know this. This can lead to an array of mental health issues such as perfectionism, and a never-ending pressure to do well in these exams, which alternately can lead to higher rates of depression among individuals and school dropout rates. Individuals are dropping out just before the education system starts adapting and becoming more inclusive, from the options of T- Levels and apprenticeship seems as well as varying assessment types when completing a degree at university. But before these individuals reach this point, the education system has burnt them out. They believe they are not capable of much more than this. Why is this outdated system segregating these individuals, making them believe that they are failures, not capable of much more in life, contributing to accelerated mental health issues in young people and unemployment.

How to make a more inclusive assessment style

So, how can the education system become a more inclusive environment for these individuals? A variety of assessment types for a start. Examinations are a great assessment type however, not for everything and everyone. Alternatives could involve projects that get assessed throughout, and written assignments that can be done in an individual's own time, in the comfort of their own environment. How about presentations, creative models, observations or assessments of practical work, assessing attitude to learning over a period of time? There are more ways than we think in which work can be assessed for individuals.

What roll-on effects could this have?

The way work is assessed also has a knock-on effect on how it is taught which has a constant roll-on effect on how an individual finds school, contributing to their motivations etc.

If they enjoy school, they may choose to progress onto college and maybe even university if they want to. They won't be bombarded with the negative associations of schooling assessments clouding their opinion on further and higher education. In other words, filling the cracks in the education system could have immense changes to thousands of young people's lives, their career aspirations and their mental health. I ponder at what point the government will look at these stats and realise what simple changes they could make to ensure that they are not failing young people and rather helping them discover their unique strengths and what they could do with these to live and work a successful, healthy lifestyle.

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