In my day they were called CIEs but I doubt the change in name has lessened how students feel about them.
It has remained an impossible task so far to forget those grey days – meant to be taken quite literally, as I reminisce those days, I can only picture them in black and white, like a sad and terribly directed old movie. In plain words, CIEs made me feel terrible or maybe, those are just the emotions that I have associated with the mere term.
May has come upon us like murderous birds in Australia and students all over the world are frantically preparing for their O and A Level examinations, even though the time for preparation has long gone by; we were advised to start in January, but even that could not have prepared us for the train-wreck that was our first A Levels session. I say first, because for many – and dare I say – most of us, the first of quite a few to come. A word of dissatisfying advice: there’s always October and November.
Recalling those A Levels, I recall the stress that ate away at my insides day by day, until the inevitable breakdown that ensued in people regarding me as unable to cope with “normal exam stress.” Unbeknownst to me, being terror-stricken of a chemistry book to the point where even the sight of it would cause palpitations was normal, even healthy. Well, it’s not.
Many of my acquaintances are venturing into those dreaded examination halls –be it Karachi’s Expo Centre, or Multan’s LaSalle – the induced feeling of dread remains the same. Many students have panic attacks right before entering these halls and are forced to even out their emotions, because what’s worse than having to lie to their parents upon their return home, about how well their exam went? The distress of the following months waiting for the result, knowing exactly how well their exam went. There are some who turn to humor while their insides shriek, and they want to bolt from the hall or those who refuse to deactivate facebook and depress everyone, including themselves.
A gentle reminder to the parents of these anxious children: go easy. A C grade is not the end of the world and a U can be changed into an A over time.
Stop forcing the weight of the world onto your child’s shoulders. Give them time to relax, sleep and a healthy diet. Comfort them in their bad days because if you won’t, who will? Let them do as they please on days when they can’t memorize a thing. Remind them that they need to study, but in moderation; they’re already stressed out due to peer pressure and teachers, they don’t need you added to the list of irritants.
To the students: breathe. You can do this, you will get through this. CIEs are neither the beginning nor the end of your academic career. Coming from someone who was made to feel insignificant and was overlooked due to terrible mock exam grades, I assure you that things will get better. For the pessimists or even nihilists, if you’re snickering at the last sentence: things may get a whole lot worse too. Remember that this is another phase of your life, and it too shall pass. You too will taste the acute sense of relief, when you comprehend how you’ll never have to see those invigilators again like I did.
To the teachers: you were once in their place and similar to when you wanted to be treated like humans rather than learning, cramming machines, so do they.
Help them; let them walk at their own pace. No two students are the same and sometimes you’ll have to work harder on some students than others because it’ll be worth seeing the straight As on their statement of results. Whenever you want to take your frustration out at them, that you have taken up the mantle of this noble duty of educating the youth of today; don’t lose your patience with them because they need you more than ever.
Oh, and get your equivalence certificates made pronto.