Why I Love Education, but Hate the System

‘School days are the best days of your life’.

I never, ever understood this phrase when I was younger. To me, the education system had always felt choking, too tight, too focused on academic success. I was always an academic child, and so I genuinely never realised how much pressure school had put on me until 9th November 2015, the worst day of my life.

On 9th November 2015, I hit my head in PE at school. No biggie, right? A few minutes later I collapsed and smashed my head off of a stone floor. Until August 2016, my life was hellish because of that accident — I was in nappies, had difficulties speaking, regularly collapsed, was severely fatigued, was in a huge amount of pain and was largely bedridden. We’re still not 100% sure what caused all of these problems, just that I have some unusual electrical activity in my brain.

Spending so many months largely alone and without people to talk to gave me a lot of time to reflect on my education, as did the fact I was left largely alone to study for my GCSE examinations which took place over May and June 2016. I was lonely, panicked over my exams and already an introspective human. I started thinking about the inordinate pressure that had been stacked up against me before I got sick. I’d already had a mini breakdown in Year 10 after being shouted at for getting a B in a Chemistry test. I was predicted A*’s in 12 GCSEs, and I couldn’t cope…I came home, sat on the floor in the hall and cried. I hated myself for getting a B. How ridiculous! How stupid! Getting a B is great! Yet, I felt like a huge disappointment because school had told me for years that A* was the only acceptable grade and anything lower was a failure.

The idea that anything less than perfection was failure was drilled into me throughout school, and I don’t blame my individual school for that — I blame the system as a whole. I was expected to master every subject, to put my all into every single subject and achieve perfection. Some people can do that! Most can’t, however. The groups most vulnerable are those who are good at a handful of subjects but average at others, and those who don’t succeed in an academic context but have talents lying elsewhere. I fell into the former group — I excelled at History, English, Media and Geography, and so I was expected to excel at Maths, Science and Foreign Languages too. It didn’t work. The pressure to be perfect grew too much and I broke. People in the opposite camp suffer too — people who excel at acting, or woodwork, or things not focused on or valued within a school environment, who are treated like idiots or failures despite having massive talents.

The education system was designed to spit out people willing to carry out boring desk jobs with little variety — people who are all the same, all happy to carry out the same roles in society. That’s all well and good to point, for those boring office jobs are necessary for a functioning society, but the dismissal of the arts and the pressure for perfection creates a 1984-esque landscape rather than a highly functioning society.

Since starting college, I’ve been blessed in that everyone is celebrated. My college offers qualifications in a huge variety of things — you can become an air host, a bricklayer, so many things. It celebrates those skills and talents which make people who they are. I always thought I’d go to sixth form and do A Levels, because I was that academic kid. I was always expected to do the academic option. I thought that doing something other than A Levels would be failure.

Now, I’m studying a Level 3 Diploma in Creative Media Production — TV and Film. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, education-wise. There are expectations, certainly, and our tutors want the best for us, but they’re reasonable. We’re not expected to do it all. Instead, we’re taught in an interesting and enjoyable way, and it’s actually relevant to my future career choices. For once in my life, I feel hopeful about education.

Don’t ever, ever be made to feel inadequate by the education system. You’re doing your best. You’ve got this. Whether you do A Levels, or a BTEC, or an apprenticeship, or you drop out, whatever you do I believe in you. I love learning, but I despise the education system, at least until the post 16 point. Keep swimming, keep focusing on the subjects and topics which matter to you and which you want to follow into the future. I focused on media, and now I’m studying a media course which I bloody adore.

I believe in you.

I just don’t believe in the education system.