Tuesday 19 June 2018

School should not be this stressful

Every time I meet a mother with a school age child around exam time she is a bundle of nerves and about to reach breaking point.

Schooling in Malta, instead of being a welcome part of a child’s life where they can socialise with  friends their own age and learn new things in a stimulating environment, is what can only be described as an obstacle course. Not only are these poor children being pushed harder and harder to cover what seems like an impossible to achieve syllabus, but the mothers (it’s mostly the mothers) are being reduced to wrecks as well.  Finishing each day’s homework sets the scene for a daily battleground while preparing for exams is a nightmare. School has become a source of tension and stress.

I cannot understand it; school did not used to be like this.  We were given just enough homework  for our capabilities and age group, and it definitely did not take hours and hours to finish.  Although I was only at school in Malta from Forms 3 – 5, I cannot remember anyone saying that their mother used to have to sit by their side to make sure they understood what they were doing.  We studied for exams on our own, and did any projects required on our own. So what happened? When did it all change?

The educational system, in my opinion, is not achieving what it sets out to do – which is to educate. It is merely creating zombies out of children who end up hating school (do you blame them?)  It is causing incredible anxiety within families as mothers dread the time of day when they have to cope with homework. But homework should not be for the mothers should it? Nor should the overly complicated projects or lists of Maltese proverbs or historical dates to be studied by heart to be regurgitated on an exam paper.

If anyone thinks that our rigid emphasis on academic subjects means that our children will end up coming out at the other end of Form 5 any more “intelligent” than other kids their age in other countries they are wrong.  Education and learning is a gradual process and a child’s ability to absorb new ideas and information cannot be hurried.  Sure Maltese children may leave school with what looks like an impressive string of O levels, but I think their overall formation in general knowledge, sports and the Arts suffers as a result. Most of all, they lag behind in their ability to debate, question and challenge new ideas.

Yes, some of them get quite good at learning by rote and cramming information into their brains in order to pass yet another exam.  A percentage of these will even continue  to do this very successfully throughout Sixth Form and even University.  But speak to employers and they will tell you how difficult it is to find graduates who can write and speak decently in both Maltese and English.  They will also tell you that many of these “whiz kids” with straight As are hopeless when it comes to being practical and pro-active on the job; they need to be told what to do. That is how they have been taught.

Somewhere along the line, school has ceased to be a positive experience for children.  It is no wonder so many of them cannot wait to leave.


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