Talk of 'dumbed down' exams is insulting when we must work so hard to succeed

24th August 2012 at 01:00
And has it ever occurred to critics that maybe dedicated teenagers are just doing what they have been told?

For the majority of Scotland's youth, June and July consisted mainly of thumb-twiddling and sleepless nights. Eventually, results arrived and, in my case, tears were shed. They were, on the surface, tears of sheer joy. But through the sobs of happiness seeped the whimpers of exhaustion, frustration and worry that had mounted up for the past year while I studied for my Highers.

The following day, the country woke up to sensational figures that showed the pass rate had risen yet again, this time by 1.8 per cent. But in typical Scottish fashion, many have snorted in disbelief and denied that our younger generation is capable of such an achievement. Tedious allegations of exams being "dumbed down" are again rife and, frankly, it's insulting.

There is an assumption that pupils have settled into a lethargic routine of simply memorising the perfect composition of formulae, essays and statistics needed to pass exams. But there is no question that the majority of exams are impossible to excel in without intelligence, initiative and common sense.

There is also a hostile attitude towards vocational courses such as hairdressing, childcare or construction, due to the belief that they are undeserving of Higher qualifications. However, the most popular school subjects continue to be academic courses such English, maths, sciences and social subjects.

Speculation is inevitable when 88 per cent of Scotland's students pass their exams, but what is also inevitable is that as a result of today's economic climate, pupils will work even harder.

As a high school student, I may be biased in my view that these astounding results are down to hard work, but I am also the daughter of two experienced teachers who aren't afraid to tell it like it is. Within the education system, there is a unanimous understanding that pupils are working harder than ever for their university places.

Students have been affected by the recession, we are well informed and we know we must work hard. Universities demand a healthy collection of As and Bs and we are adapting to this requirement.

Pupils are aware, informed and ambitious, because they need to be. We strive to ensure our future is brighter than everyone else's. We are an eager, "do-it-all" generation that is prepared to work hard to salvage our future that has been painted so darkly by our elders.

It is easy to be cynical about good news in these dark times, but it is also easy to underestimate the versatility and determination of pupils. Those who question the quality of exams must be reminded that, surprisingly, young people do listen to what they are told.

Amy McShane is in S6 at Crieff High.

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