Fear of failure lurks

We live in a fiercely competitive society. If we want to change that we have to start with the educational system, claims clinical psychologist Eleni Kouloutzou. «I would be completely in favor of abolishing exams. Learning comes as naturally to a child as playing,» she said. «The joy of learning is lost however when it is linked to the expectation of success. The education system itself detaches the educational process from the joy of learning by promoting competition. As soon as children become pupils, everyone wants them to succeed. There is one goal throughout their school years, to attain a university place.» Parents bear a large share of responsibility. «Parents assume the role of the teacher. Good grades are there to make them happy. They want their child to achieve what they may not have achieved. Children identify their parents’ joy with love and acceptance. So they prepare for exams under a huge burden of expectations in order to prove their worth. In the back of their minds is a great fear, the fear of failure.» It is common for good students to hand in blank answer sheets in exams. «My mind stopped,» is the usual explanation. «But it is not surprising that many children rebel at the end of the road, just before the university entrance exams,» said Kouloutzou. «Some even attempt suicide. It’s because they can’t stand the pressure. Exams are an occasion for the possible eruption of what has been simmering all through the school year.» She believes that school should be just one of many chapters in a child’s life. And that cannot happen when there are so many exams – at school, at tuition college – and the anxiety to succeed. If exams were abolished, children would be free to learn, to dream of what they want from life, and to make mistakes. «They would learn from that,» she concluded.

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