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19th February 2020

Sometimes, we need to be allowed to fail

Failure in education is still heavily criticised. But do we need to give ourselves a rest from such pressure and learn to accept our mistakes?
Sometimes, we need to be allowed to fail
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

The famous writer C.S. Lewis once stated “failures are the finger posts on the road to achievement.” In the instance of failure in education, such inspirational quotes from intellectual giants, inventors and even celebrities are blatantly ignored or forgotten. But why are so many students and educators forgetting the importance of failure?

Education systems are the first major area of blame. The pressure for schools and universities to gain success in league tables has spun out of control. From the age of eleven we are trained to resist failure and pursue high grades. Such unnecessary stress, from as early as primary school SATS exams, has completely sapped away the enjoyment of education. This compulsion to pass and receive high grades continues throughout GCSES, A levels, and university for the many students today. But what for? To prove that we have the ability to memorise dates, names, methods, and theories? To contribute to our school or university’s position in national rankings? It is time for the system to allow failure. We should no longer be afraid to make mistakes on the way to success, but currently there are too many consequences to failing.

For the sake of our own mental and physical health, the pressure we place on ourselves is another factor in desperate need of change. The most recent exam period was a stark reminder of how exhausted we become from our dedication to passing assignments and exams. Looking around the library, I found myself, along with so many others, draining away in front of computer screens until late at night. Sometimes even the early hours of the morning, and many do not allow themselves to take proper time off. Whether breaks include going to the gym, eating out at a nice restaurant, going for drinks or binge watching a Netflix series, we need to accept that our body yearns for both rest and change. I am guilty of this resistance to failure and along with countless members of Generation Z, will regularly sacrifice proper periods of rest to achieve a high mark.

Failure has unfortunately always been more public than success. The current negative atmosphere around the topic causes many students to over think the expectations of lecturers, teachers, parents, and friends. By failing, we often feel as though we have let those closest to us down, even more than ourselves. This should not be the case. Our journey through education is our own. Both mistakes and successes belong only to the individual and we should not punish ourselves as a result of other people’s judgements. Thomas Edison failed thousands of times to invent a working light bulb. Therefore, as long as we continue to learn from our failure, why do the views of those around us even matter?

Society as a whole desperately needs to alter its demeaning attitudes towards failure, for the sake of both students’ mental and physical health, and to reduce the importance of exams when progressing through education. Until this change for the better takes place, failure really is not an option for so many young people today.

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