After results day: Are UK teenagers driven enough?
Official figures released yesterday show that the proportion of GCSEs awarded at least a C grade has fallen for the first time in the exam’s history. More worryingly, the results also show a drop in the percentage of English, maths and science GCSE entries achieving passes at A*-C. Furthermore, last week it was revealed that the number of students awarded top marks at A-Level had decreased for the first time in 20 years. This has made me wonder; are we, as a nation, placing enough emphasis on the importance of education to the younger generation?
I am currently tutoring some of China’s most wealthy secondary school students in Shanghai whilst they are on their summer holidays. These privileged Chinese students attend the best prep and public schools in the UK. One of my tutees, who is looking to attend Harrow next year, last week recited pi to 100 decimal places in 8 seconds to me. This is not a skill that I believe a British 12 year old student would normally possess amongst their arsenal of useless One Direction trivia or reality TV knowledge.
Over their summer holidays these Chinese children have chock-a-block schedules with back-to-back private tutoring classes to keep their minds active over the holidays and prepare them for next years exams. One student even told me that he was looking forward to going to his Chinese maths camp this summer as he felt that his numerical ability had slipped over the year he had spent studying in the UK. He attends one of the top prep schools in the country yet he finds even the hardest maths classes in school too easy.
Not one of the pupils complain about their workload or the amount of homework tutors are forced to dish out every day at the requests of their parents – and this practice is commonplace around the country. It also goes without saying that they conduct all their lessons in English thus making them completely fluent in English and Chinese, two of the leading language used in business throughout the world. I have no doubt in my mind that many of these children will go on to become the future leaders not only of their country but also of the world.
It is not only the wealthy Chinese families however that places so much importance in education and exams on their offspring. It is common for Chinese families to pool what little money they have together to spend on furthering their child’s education. This is a sound investment for families, if nothing else, as parents will be expecting to rely on their children when elderly in a country without the comfortable safety net of the UK benefit system.
The most important exam time in China by far is the Gaokao season. The Gaokao is the National Higher Education Entrance Exam that is sat by 18 year olds looking to gain places at good universities. For these two days in June the whole country seems to focus on one thing only. The students. Building sites near schools are shut down to avoid noisy distractions, swaths of students hook themselves up to intravenous drips to improve their chances and are girls are handed out birth control pills to help stop untimely menstruation. These exams have the power to change the lives of the young students, and their families, especially those from poorer provinces. Studying hard and getting a place at a good university could mean the difference between getting out of their backwater hometown, obtaining a well-paid job and breaking the impoverished cycle that generations of ancestors faced before them. In the months leading up to the exam season, it is not uncommon for a parent to dedicate their time fully to their child by renting a room nearer the school to lessen time wasted commuting. Of course, this tremendous pressure and strain can lead to cracks appearing in the youngsters and an increase in suicide rates are reported at this time. When I was studying in China one poor girl jumped from her high-rise door room during the traumatic university exam period.
Young people aged 16 to 18 in the UK however do not have the same experience when it come to sitting GCSE or A-Level exams. I accept that this year exam boards changed their marking schemes, resulting in many students receiving lower grades then they expected, but there is still not the same burning ambition and inner drive within most UK students to achieve top A* grades. There is not the same need to elevate oneself from poverty and become successful as there is in China. This is of course a wonderful thing but many intelligent students can breeze through their exams without too much worry, gain average scores and still get accepted into Red Brick universities based upon strong personal statements and references.
It seems some young students now-a-days, thanks in part to the media, have a lazy, can’t be bothered attitude and idolise many Z-list celebrities. These Z-listers are famous for doing not much but party and many teens want to be just like them. Who can really blame the younger generation for this though? They have spent the majority of their secondary school years growing up in a terrible economic crisis. I don’t blame UK students for being demoralised after EMA funding was cut, university tuition fees increased and job prospects continuing to look bleak.
The UK was once the world’s powerhouse and a hotbed for pioneering ideas that were transferred all around the world. We should not let ourselves become a shrinking and declining superpower so easily.
After the success of the London 2012 Olympic Games, we need to continue to take pride in our country and pull ourselves out of this bleak economic climate. Unfortunately for the younger generation they are the people that will have to shoulder the weight of the mistakes made in the past but this should empower them to strive for better. After all, most of my fellow Chinese students are such ardent nationalists because they are tremendously proud of how much their country has developed and achieved in the past few decades.
I for one am so proud of my country after the London Olympics as I’m sure many others are, we need to now build on that success, which fostered a great sense of national pride and tackle the problems affecting society. More emphasis should be placed on the importance of education and examinations whilst funding also pumped into educational programmes in areas such as maths and science. UK teens need to have an unwavering drive instilled in them at home as well as in school and fire placed in their bellies. The younger generations should focus more on their education to help the UK continue to be an innovative and prosperous economy, thus remaining competitive on the worldwide stage.Tagged in: A-levels, Celebrity, china, chinese students, education, exams, Gaokao, gcse, Higher Education, homework, Results day, school, work ethic
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