Missed the Mark?

December 18th 2017

Well, it is that time of the year again. Schools start winding down and activities turn to social norms and traditions of the festive season. The one secular tradition that tends to gain a lot of interest is the end of schooling exam results. Each state and territory have their own version of tests that students leaving the final year of a school must sit. These tests are the big-ticket item on the annual school calendar. Children, as learners have seemingly been preparing for these tests for the entirety of their formal education. Of course, there were other bits of education and learning gleaned along the way but, for the most part, those educational years emphasised the importance of doing well in the last set of exams. No pressure!

On completing the anxiety-inducing testing period educational communities all around the country get to sit and wait. And wait, and wait. Wait for the oh-so-important results. The stress and tension that even the most nonchalant of learners likely felt facing those tests was in fact just the entrée. The real measure for the impending school graduate is how they hold up and prepare themselves for the exam results.

It can feel like everything a student is ever going to amount to hinges on getting the right marks. Society tells them that those marks are the most important accomplishment they will have made to date. Provided the marks are good! Newspapers herald the outstanding successes; radio announcers highlight stories of adversity and schools where students as a collective performed well are applauded. Teachers ring mobiles and check how the students are coping and Universities send out email reminders that first round offers are the next great milestone and just around the corner. Little wonder hitting the mark seems like the only goal a learner should have.

But what if a child missed the mark? Is it the end? Have they ruined their chances for an outstanding career, future happiness and excellent income earning potential? These, after all, seem to be the rewards alluded to by the social discourse around good exam results. So, in the absence of good results…..

But wait. Exams and scores are not the only stock to place value on. All of us oldies know this and tell anyone who will listen that there is life after the exam scores. The world does not simply begin or end with a mark. Words are a poor medicine. Tales of alternative opportunities and paths and talk of the redundancy of the test in less than a year do not really ease the dismay and disappointment of the distressed child.

For students who have not gotten the scores they were aiming for the fascination on their results can feel like a terrible ending to a lifetime of schooling. There appears to be little a bystander can do. This seemingly futile position shouldn’t prohibit anyone from trying to soothe the broken-hearted. Remind the young learner that they have indeed met many important marks in their lives. Many.

The achievement to obtain a Learners Permit, a Probationary Licence, these are no small feats for those who have realised them. The fact that they have survived the very challenging social nuances of school and are able to say farewell in a formal sense, what an effort. There are those who have held down jobs, others have cared for parents, siblings and elderly relatives, all while studying. Remind those who have participated in team sports over the years of their involvement that has been relied upon by others and how good they felt to be part of a team. Remind the young person who has survived 13 years of good and bad education, navigated through puberty, made friendships and established networks which have made them a part of the bigger community, that they themselves are the only ones who are best positioned to know what they are worth. Indeed, all students around the country who got those results have well and truly met their mark, and the results, scores aside, are outstanding.