Lynn Ruane: Don’t let exam results decide your future

Lynn Ruane: Don’t let exam results decide your future

Independent Senator and Tallaght native Lynn Ruane is a regular columnist for The Echo Newspaper and each week will share her opinion on a diverse range of topics that cross both her political and personal life.

By Lynn Ruane

Last Wednesday the Leaving Certificate kicked off around the country.

It’s very likely that for the past twelve months teachers have been repeating the words, “study more, buckle down, these exams are very important” and so on.

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The exhaustion and strain that is felt by students in the lead-up to the state exams is unfair and does little for their ability to think critically and feel confident in their ability to do well going forward.

Moreover, the negative impact it has on a young person’s mental health can have lasting effects on their experiences of learning.

We wrongly send young people off into the world with the false idea that exam results are a measurement of their intelligence when the truth is that everybody learns differently – some kids will do well in the Leaving Cert because rote learning suits them, while other students may be led to believe they’re not good enough.

I know this is true because I am not good at rote learning. I do not do well in exams, but I excel in every job and task that I undertake. This is because I, like many others, learn by doing and participating in the work itself.

Some children would flourish and easily enter third-level education if we placed more emphasis on continuous assessment and project work.

Something must change in how we educate our young and the Leaving Cert must go, so that we can stop wasting the potential of Ireland’s future generations.

Exams are more about memory than intelligence and the points system is about demand rather than the difficulty of the course.

It ignores the child’s interests, talents and resilience. So why do we insist on putting our youth through such a gruelling, outdated process?

Many would have you believe that the Leaving Certificate is the most equal exam that could exist. This could not be further from the truth. Those who can afford it will invest in grinds, giving a clear advantage to young people who have access to financial capital.

For many students, these exams come at a high cost. By promoting the idea that your exam results are connected to your ambitions and self-belief, we limit ourselves.

What we often fail to tell students is that most of what they learn in school is not what employers will look for or even what is required for success in third-level education.

Many young adults arrive in university without the skills required to be responsible for their own learning. It has also been reported that as technology continues to grow at the rate it is, employers are becoming more focused on people who demonstrate the ability to problem-solve and think critically.

Most importantly, our exam results do not define us. We can all still choose to believe in ourselves and be as ambitious as we want.

As Marianne Williamson [an American teacher and best-selling author] wrote: “It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

“We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?

“Who are you not to be? It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone, and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.”

So, while it’s important that we encourage our children to give the exams their all, let’s make sure we reinforce the idea that, regardless of the result they get, they should still believe in themselves and follow their passions.

Best of luck to all the students over the coming weeks, and remember there are many routes to fulfilling your potential.