As my sister stumbled into breakfast this morning with her head held low, my heart sank. I knew what it meant, she knew that I knew what it meant. We both avoided eye contact, sat down and finished our cereal in silence.
This morning in the UK, hundreds of thousands of eager/nervous/excited/self-assured 18 year-old’s received the results of their A-Level public examinations. One exam had gone terribly wrong for my sister. In fairness, everybody who knows her and her entire school population seems to believe a mistake has been made, so she may well be fine. But others won’t be.
The way that we are conditioned to believe in examinations, the importance of higher education, leads the opening of an email one morning… one second in time, to change your life forever. From a world full of hope and opportunity to nothing.
This is a huge shame.
Yet exams are important – this is the desperate thing. In billions of years of development, exams are the best way that human beings have found to measure themselves against one another.
This, again is a shame. The issue is not in the exams themselves, but in the huge bias that people seem to put on them.
It leaves many people in the situation of having an infinitely more difficult journey to finding success.
You can decide for yourselves the importance of a university degree, but I would ask that you do this: The next time you speak to somebody and find that they have not been to university, ask yourself, ‘I am judging this person?’. The answer is almost always, yes. Heck, even I do it, and I haven’t been to university myself.
To my sister and all those others out there. Don’t despair, there are many many ways to succeed, university is just one of them.
In order to truly find the best in society, we need to look beyond traditional education, beyond financial means beyond color, language, race. Success in a government standardised test isn’t the only measure of success and ability. Don’t trick yourself into thinking it is.
By the same token, those who have gained great results today, I applaud you. As I am currently finding, when it comes to the job market, it is going to make your life a hell of a lot easier!