High stakes Leaving Cert has families walking on egg shells

Today’s Leaving Cert students brag about how much they study, it’s a whole new ball game, so says Colette Sheridan in her weekly column
High stakes Leaving Cert has families walking on egg shells

FEELING THE PRESSURE: ‘Students are buying into the system with all its existing competitiveness.’Picture: stock, posed by a mode

THE day of reckoning has arrived when Leaving Cert students all over the country will try to hold their nerve as they tackle exam papers, in the grim knowledge that this is a high stakes game which will have long-lasting implications for their future.

What amazes me is how the kids today accept the status quo, imposing pressure on themselves as they pay €20 for temporary library use at UCC. After all, the city and county libraries shut down on Sundays and bank holidays, which is a real drag for today’s teenage students.

They are disciplined enough to work all the hours available to them. It wasn’t like that in my day. You did a bit of swotting at home and you never admitted to anything bordering on zealousness.

Today’s Leaving Cert students brag about how much they study. It’s a whole new ball game. These young ones, instead of maybe protesting over the overly-demanding Leaving Cert, buy into the system with all its exhausting competitiveness.

A teacher with nearly 30 years experience points out that when we were young, we were of a generation that was “benignly neglected.” Our parents got on with their lives and there wasn’t the same level of helicopter parenting that exists today. Parents now like to try and micro-manage their kids’ lives. They want them to do their absolute best and will shell out for expensive grind schools if required.

Leaving Cert students have a vast amount of information around the exams. They know all about the marking schemes and they’re aware of the bell curve grading that operates which ensures that there are the same number of As, Bs, and Cs etc every year. They’re basically competing with this system. Not to mention the palaver surrounding the ‘pre’ Leaving Cert which is a taste of what is to come — a sneak preview of, not quite the gates of hell, but the pressurised nature of the exams. Throw into the mix the media hype surrounding the exams and you’re dealing with a major national ‘news’ story. A story that repeats itself every year, usually under a blazing sun.

The students use an app on their phones called ‘Forest.’ You pay for it and it rewards you by blocking your access to the internet, Facebook and other social media platforms. In other words, it makes phones redundant. Students monitor how many hours they study by being told by the app how long they’ve been locked out from their phones. Mad, isn’t it? Whatever happened to will power? Technology has made slaves of the young ones.

A friend, who has a daughter doing the Leaving Cert, says the exam affects the whole household. “It’s an entire family affair,” she says. Her husband hasn’t stopped cooking for their daughter, making sure she gets to eat nourishing food. She puts in orders and announced last week that she really doesn’t like the combination of grapes and halloumi. Sure God love us.

Then there’s the worry of the ‘Leaving Cert stone’ which the girls, in particular, are in dread of gaining. It’s down to all the comfort food they’re guzzling. But they try and counter it by going to the gym (when they put their books down for a good cause.)

My friend had to do “an intervention”. She took her daughter to the doctor as she was complaining of a sore throat and sore ears. For €60, the doctor told Julie that she needs to go to bed early. Julie wouldn’t listen to this advice from her mum but once a medic utters it, it has credibility.

My friend can barely talk to her daughter. It’s like walking on eggshells in their house. The daughter is ultra sensitive at the moment and quick to anger.

“I’m looking forward to getting my daughter back once this ordeal is over. She’s normally malleable, even-tempered and not a bit volatile. She has a very pleasant disposition. But she has morphed into someone unrecognisable. I have said to the family to steer clear of her and agree with everything she says. I’m looking forward to having normal boundaries of behaviour re-established,” the mum said.

Talk about treading carefully lest you tread on your offspring’s dreams. There is a sort of inverted snobbery surrounding an arts degree. It’s seen as something lesser and not worthy of boasting about because you don’t need stratospheric points for it. These days, it’s all about doing a degree in commerce with a language thrown in or BIS (Business Information Systems.) That’s if you’re not aiming for medicine or law. In our day, an arts degree was all many of us aspired to. And nothing wrong with it either.

The post-leaving cert holiday in Magaluf causes the parents sleepless nights. Another story for another day in this ongoing nightmare!

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