Exam pressure “adds to pupils’ mental health troubles”
The question of how much is demanded of schoolchildren has caused public debate in the past couple of weeks.
It started with MP Jóhannes Joensen (Javnaðarflokkurin) asking the education minister for details about the national curriculum tests and the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) tests.
Joensen requested information about how the test results are used and what views teachers and pupils have on these tests.
“Do schools demand too much of our children? Is it right to spend large sums of money on these tests, and do the pupils benefit from the results?” asked Joensen.
“Perhaps it would be better to focus on encouraging each individual pupil to develop their special skills.”
He went on to say that the stress brought about by these exams may be linked to the current increase in mental health problems for children and teenagers.
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This view is backed up by Jacob Eli Olsen, the chairman of the Teachers’ Association, who says that exam pressure is a contributing factor for an increasing trend of school refusal among pupils.
Olsen supports MP Joensen’s suggestion of abolishing national curriculum tests and PISA tests to reduce the pressure on pupils.
Psychologist Annika Helgadóttir Davidsen agrees that exam pressure may well be a cause of increasing mental health problems for young people.
Margreth Olsen, who heads the Sernám special education centre, says that abolishing these exams may be a step in the right direction, but she is keen to point out that this alone would not solve young people’s mental health problems.
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Bjarni Djurholm, deputy headmaster at Tórshavn’s Eysturskúlin, has a different view, saying that rather than contributing to mental health problems, exams enhance pupils’ resilience and their personal and intellectual development.
“There are many indications that today’s youths are caught in a materialistic web and a digital reality in which they from a young age are conditioned to be constantly ‘on’ for fear of social isolation,” he writes in a reader’s letter published on news portal vp.fo.
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“Daily life at home is characterised by a stressful routine in which the parents are busy maintaining a certain material standard while insisting that their children engage in all types of leisure activities. Meanwhile, the parents, after a hard day at work, also have a need to achieve their self-realisation. This general lack of presence sums up the increasing mental health problems facing families today.”
Translated by prosa.fo.
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