Education > Has school become an exam factory?

Posted on October 12, 2017

Zarina Macha discusses how young people are being turned into robots...
I once heard a teacher say, “Education right now feels like an exam factory. You take ‘em in, churn ‘em up, then spit ‘em out!”

In other words, students go to school, memorise a bunch of facts, and regurgitate them to pass exams, in order to become the best droid.

Why are young people being taught to behave like robots? If you want to get a job, surely you must be as unlike machines as possible: socially skilled, creative and critical?

When I was at secondary school, retaining information was much more important than understanding content. I felt enormous pressure when I was repeatedly told “these exam results are the defining moment in your life, and if you fail them you’ll never get a job!”

I believe in education for the sake of education, and that learning should ignite our inquisitiveness. It should include acquiring and expanding knowledge about our culture, history and the rational advancement of human development – not just passing exams.

“When they are allowed to apply their natural creativity and curiosity, children love learning. Then they get to school, and we suppress this instinct by sitting them down, force-feeding them with inert facts and testing the life out of them.” Journalist, George Monbiot reports.

I believe in education for the sake of education, and that learning should ignite our inquisitiveness

The children’s counselling service, Childline revealed that fears about exams are rising dramatically. They delivered over 3,000 counselling sessions about exam stress, between 2015-16, a 9% increase from the previous year.

“Teachers see very clearly the effect of stress on students, and are reporting exam stress among school children from primary school upwards. Many relate it to the joyless exam-factory approach this government has towards education…” Deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, Kevin Courtney.

Young people aren’t the only ones being affected. The insistence on preparing for exams and constant testing, is also distressing teachers.

“It’s not right that all I teach is exam practice. I love my subject but you know they’ve added another 100 pages of biology to get through in the name of making things harder. I want to inspire my students, but I’m being ground down.” Teacher from School 21, London.

We stress and struggle to cram for tests, only to quickly forget what we’ve learned. Leaving us unclear and scared about what our future holds! Schools and colleges should be a space where we can learn, be inspired and supported. But all too often they’re filled with tired, stressed, depressed teenagers, traipsing through the corridors.

Former education secretary, Nicky Morgan previously claimed that it could be detrimental to job prospects for young people to study arts and humanities subjects. As someone who wants to pursue the arts as a career path, I found this statement very unhelpful and absurd.

We stress and struggle to cram for tests, only to quickly forget what we’ve learned.

I studied History, Film and Psychology at A level. Studying Psychology, for example, has been instrumental in understanding my own mental health issues, and developing empathy for others.

Fortunately, a report by campaign group, Cultural Learning Alliance, released earlier this year, provides evidence that taking part in art activities increases cognitive abilities.

They found that pupils who study art subjects are more employable. It goes on to explain how a generation of young people will be, “intellectually poorer, emotionally more limited, and socially more isolated” unless they are allowed access to a full range of arts and culture.

Yes, young people should be pushed to achieve and do their best, but not by memorising instead of learning, and not at the expense of our mental health.

I believe in a well-rounded education. It is essential to engage, learn and pursue subjects that you find interesting, challenging, and that help to create the premise for mental and physical wellbeing.

If you need support coping with stress brought on by exams or pressure from school you can contact: Mind.

Our thanks to John Lyon’s Charity for making this project possible.


Zarina Macha
Zarina Macha is a student at The Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford studying Songwriting and Creative Artistry. She regularly writes a social comment blog where she discusses topics from politics to tv shows. She is an aspiring author and musician.

Exposure is an award-winning youth communications charity giving young people in north London a voice. Please support us to continue our work. Thank you.



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One Response to Has school become an exam factory?

  1. Sophia October 27, 2017 at 10:25 am #

    This gives an interesting view on education which many young people can relate to but is not often spoken about. It was shocking to know that so many people are affected by the stress and yet schools are, for the most part, looking the other way and not acknowledging that many young people are experiencing the same problem.

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