Forcing My Students to Sit for Exams

By this point in our careers, we’ve practically seen it all. Students who are indifferent to learning a language, others who adamantly insist on pursuing their own educational path of choice – one which does not include learning a foreign language. Perhaps the most pressing of concerns relates to the young souls who literally fall apart in front of our eyes; the children who are stressed beyond words, to the point their grievances and frustrations lead to physical ailments and mental outbreaks.

If we were to decrypt the predicament before us, one would state that as adults and educators, we must adhere to the obligation of ‘inspiring’ our students in making the correct decisions which will ‘save’ their professional careers in the long run. Caught that bit of irony in my aforementioned statement? I’m glad you did. Let’s get one thing straight. There’s a difference between impetuous behavior on behalf of a student who capitulates any given opportunity to broaden his educational sphere of knowledge and genuine determination to follow his own path without abiding to our own personal stipulations.

Students must have their voices heard. They are not malefactors who are to be publicly flagellated. As a society, we must instill respect by heeding their pleas. Simply put, let them choose who they want to be. Flailing interest in a specific field of education should not be condemned in any fashion. Nor should their personal desire to refrain from exams. It’s their prerogative. Nonetheless, immature attitudes are ever-present, especially at such a young age. Is it in our power to oblige them to go through such a procedure? One which in many cases results in animosity or grief? I know what you’re thinking, “Once the results are out, all that hard effort will be worth it! They’ll be celebrating their accomplishments by adding a certificate to their cv and everyone, including the school, will be a winner!” That’s not how it works as the idea of applying abrasive attitudes for personal self-promotion should be frowned upon in any form. It’s not about us or our businesses rather the well-being of our students. 

I recall I literally begged my mother to discontinue my piano lessons. The stress was too much for me to bear. The teacher resorted to demeaning tactics resulting in literal physical pain every week before being assessed. Was it worth it? Looking back, I’m glad I eventually had my voice heard  and ceased lessons with the teacher in question. A small part of me though is envious when I witness the grace in which others play, reminding me of what I could have had. I eventually regret abdicating this art and came to the conclusion that other solutions could have been sought. Another teacher perhaps? Fewer lessons at a varied or even slower pace so as to have time to recuperate from the endless activities I exercised? At this mature age, I attest to the latter. We as educator are accountable for our students’ prosperity and future. The approach is that which we must be weary of.

Denial of assessment in any form, be it written exam or otherwise, may stem from insecurity or genuine lack of proper preparation. Having our students’ voices heard is the first step to gaining their respect and boosting their confidence. Denying participation in exams is not a pointless act of petulance, rather a mature choice in many cases. Respecting said choice would pave the way to an honest and whole-hearted conversation of the actions need be taken to achieve the final goal of certification, be it postponement, or abstaining from sitting for the exams altogether. Tailoring a student’s potential to alternate forms of assessment (the market is flooded with a variety of certifications to look into) is also a sound approach. Solutions are abundant as long as we are open to them.

Gone are the days (hopefully so) when a teacher or parent would force a child into pursuing the educational distinctions, we wish to bestow upon them. Education is a right and therefore this right is to be respected even if it means refraining from or postponing any form of evaluation. The joy in pursuing knowledge must never be overshadowed by mandatory exposure to it. As my professor once dictated, “It’s preferable to consciously choose what, how, and when we learn, rather than mewl about it.”


Katherine Reilly

Katherine Reilly

Author & Academic Lecturer, English Literature | LGBTQIA+ Business Consultant | Public and Motivational Speaker