Tuesday, July 01, 2008

RM column June 6 - Exam coverage in the media – good or bad

RM column June 6 - Exam coverage in the media – good or bad

By the time this column goes to print we will have already had many post-mortems on the various exams in the Junior and Leaving Cert. From the daily television news slot, to radio reports to the daily full page in the national papers dismantling the previous day’s papers.

You certainly don’t get this amount of news stories about people sitting university exams. The fact that nearly everyone who has sat the Leaving Cert agrees that no other exams taken after the Leaving Cert are as stressful. I know people in their 50s who still have nightmares about being back in school sitting these important state tests.

The deluge of media coverage isn’t really something that I thought much about before until recently when a couple of people have commented on how this is overdrive, stressful to students and completely over the top.

I don’t really agree with the comments completely but there is certainly some merit to their arguments.

On one level it is certainly gratifying that our media cover the exams so thoroughly when I was growing up there would be a small mention when exams started and when the results came out, other than that there wasn’t much else.

I wouldn’t have thought all this coverage would put more pressure on already pressurised and stressed students but then I am not sitting exams so I can’t say that for sure.
I do know that this time last year when the Young Wan sat her Junior Cert I was living on the last nerve I had as was she.

If I missed any pre-exam supplements on the Junior Cert I felt that I had failed to get her a study guide that might have made the difference between passing and not. So I suppose I fell prey to the pressure myself.

It could also be argued that covering exams in the way they are shows another side to our kids as opposed to the normal negative news story we are used to in the media.

Given the fact that a significant number of young people leave school without a Leaving Cert, isn’t it also a good thing that so much media time is spent on the Junior and Leaving Cert? It normalises the exams as something that everyone should have.

I understand that not every child is academic but there are still options for them to leave school with some kind of qualification in their back pocket.

Given the impending economic downturn I for one want my daughter armed with qualifications. The first people hit in times like that are those without exams behind them except for the exceptional few.

As an aside if you are a student and feel that things are getting on top of you a new text helpline has been set up which will help you get information from a range of helplines and support services such as the Samaritans, the Gardai and Parentline to name a few. To find out more text ‘headsup’ to 50424 or check out their website at headsup.ie.

Summing up I can’t decide whether all this coverage is a good or a bad thing. Have you children doing exams, what do you think? Are you doing exams yourself, how does all the media coverage make you feel?

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