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By Sarah Martinson a young lady with many hidden talents destined to make a difference in the world. She recently received her Matric results and received 9 distinctions

The class of 2017 has (finally) finished school. It was the biggest relief – after hours of studying and stressing for a year that felt filled only with exams, nothing could be a greater liberation. We were finally free from all constraints, we just had no idea how we had done – that was the real waiting game. Results came out with little ceremony; a single sms to show how our hard work had paid off.  

In my opinion, there’s too much hype around Matric results. Yes, they’re what get us into university, but after that they don’t really mean anything. We’ve forgotten that the true purpose of the education system is education, and not to spew out distinctions. They are the result of hard work, but equal amounts of hard work do not result in As for everyone. We cannot be measured by these symbols. The mentality that 12 years of schooling are only worth it if they result in seven distinctions is counterproductive: it implies that we no longer learn for knowledge but instead for recognition.

People generally succeed in things they enjoy, not limited to school subjects. There are some lucky kids who happen to love science, maths, music, so success comes naturally and these students are heaped with praise. This praise is due, but their achievements are not more important than those of a child who has worked just as hard but didn’t attain ‘Top Achiever’ status – in the real world hard work and community participation also pays off. Perhaps we should be finding a way to measure effort as well as marks. The attention awarded to distinctions detracts from all the other values and attributes, often more important, that school is also supposed to instil in us. Parents choose schools that, as well as an academic record, have extracurriculars and a good school ethos for the all-rounded growth of their child. So, at the end of this school journey, these aspects benefit children but aren’t always revealed in distinctions. 

This is reflected in my attitude towards education: I ‘succeeded’ in high school because I did the things I enjoyed the most. My parents didn’t pressure me into choosing subjects I had little interest in, and the subjects I chose fascinated me. Through studying these I learnt factual information, about trigonometry and Surrealism. I chose subjects that I’d readily engage in and want to know more about. This information probably won’t be relevant in my daily life, but I love that I learned it anyway. These facts weren’t the end goal but part of the journey. I believe this love of learning is lost in the emphasis on marks.

Matric shouldn’t be celebrated merely through number of distinctions; the journey itself deserves a medal. The year affects us; our well-being. It tests our teachers (who put so much effort into helping our understanding), and our parents: nothing will be enough to recognise the support you’ve given us. Relationships are tested. We’ve learnt to juggle a million things at once, and learnt how important time management is even if we can’t necessarily manage time. The problem is that our Matric results measure not our intelligence but our ability to remember things and write them down. It tests not our problem-solving skills but our ability to answer questions in a way that is deemed ‘correct’. This is a skill, certainly, but not one that deserves so much promotion. I’m not sure how one might fix this, but I want to bring attention to the fact that all matriculants are more multi-faceted and complex than any amount of distinctions can reflect.

So to everyone who wrote Matric last year – congratulations. Well done for surviving the year that seems to carry more and more weight as time passes. No matter what your results were, you’re strong for making it through. And to other students – do the things you love because it is from them you’ll learn the most about yourself. This is the most important lesson, the one that can be overlooked when you get that sms. You’re so much more than that sms.

For parents looking for an alternative for their children who may not cope with the way they are expected to learn at traditional schools,
– click here to find a list of alternative schools in Gauteng and here for KZN
– click here to find schools that help children with special needs in Gauteng and here in KZN

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