Has the Government failed the Education System during the pandemic?
Words by: Natalya Sharp Picture by: Pixabay
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic- which has greatly impacted everyone’s lives- a major focus has been on education and schools. This, understandably, is a difficult sector to manage, as it involves a partial, if not entire, shift online. We have seen the government and society pushing to ensure that schoolchildren are treated fairly and receiving exceptional circumstances regarding exams and assessments. This has been the forefront of many news headlines across the past year with A-Level and GCSE exams being cancelled last year, and again, this year. The government is now placing ownership of results into the hands of the schools through internal marking and assessments. While many will agree this is a reasonable decision, as it is simply unfair to force students to sit exams they are unprepared for, is it perhaps leaving them at disadvantage, intellectually, for university and future academic paths?
The cancelling of important examinations removes a vital experience of sitting papers in exam conditions for schoolchildren- a skill these students will need at the next stage in their lives, whether this is A-Levels or university. For some students their first in-person exam experience may be a vital one, which leaves them at a significant disadvantage. These students will not have the knowledge of dealing with anxieties or nerves from lower-level exams- something many of us, as students, can relate to and remember. However, this is not the only issue with cancelling examinations and allowing school-students to move onto the next stage education wise, as many students will be missing intellectual knowledge from their syllabuses that is required, or at least helpful, for their future. For example, will some GCSE science students have the scientific ability to complete a science A-Level successfully, or will they struggle unnecessarily. This leaves us with the question- should students be resitting a year, or even two years of their education?
While these are all questions which have been asked, discussed and decided on, the fate of university students seems forgotten or irrelevant. Since the first lockdown in March 2020, university students have not had cancelled exams or assessments, and they are still expected to achieve the same level and competency of work. Even though they have had their contact hours drastically decreased and their learning being, for many, moved completely online. Students are still expected to pay thousands of pounds of fees each term, for limited teaching, and some students are even paying for accommodation they are unable to live in! Why are university students forgotten in this pandemic? University is a higher level of education than GCSEs and A-Levels, and for many jobs now employers require a high-level bachelors degree. Therefore, students should not be a passing thought in government.
However, while the level and standard of teaching and learning has clearly decreased for university students, perhaps the most troubling aspect of their forgotten status in society is the drastic decrease in mental health issues. For many the pandemic is already a difficult time to deal with mentally, but for university students, they are still expected to sit exams and complete assignments with little to no help. Therefore, it is not unexpected that 73%, almost three quarters of students, said that their mental health had declined in lockdown. I urge any students feeling lonely, isolated, worried, stressed, anxious or just in need of help to contact anyone who can help- perhaps a therapist, family, a doctor, or a trusted university tutor- do not suffer alone! The mind.org.uk website has a great section on students struggling with the pandemic and lockdown, so check it out if you need to.
All students of all levels are struggling and require help to get through this pandemic and continued lockdown. Most students are recognised and exams/assessments are restructured to reflect this, but not university students. We need to question this and ensure that students and their mental health are not forgotten in this pandemic!