The Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment) tests have taken place across the globe every three years since 2000, and a country’s score is often used to boast about its smartness (or otherwise). The results this year showed the United Kingdom has finally made it into the top five. But our standout statistic isn’t for academic prowess; it’s for our children’s disproportionately high fear of failure. The Guardian reports.
According to the results, British girls are the fifth most afraid of failure in the world, pipped only by Taipei, Macau, Singapore, and Brunei. Our fear gender gap is also one of the largest, with girls substantially more anxious than boys.
Mental health figures are always tricky to navigate, with lots of caveats, but a consistent finding across several recent reports is that Britain’s teenage girls are self-harming and struggling with emotional disorders – the most recent NHS data puts the figure at one in five (22.4%) by the age of 19, more than three times the rate for boys. This sounds ludicrously high – is every fifth teenager really struggling emotionally? But if we’re fifth in the world for students’ fear, I worry they are right. And while we may look at the data and say it is not hurting their grades, if it’s causing scars on their arms and hearts, we ought carefully to consider what might be causing the problem.
Fifteen-year-olds in the UK are approaching high-stakes exams that affect their next step in education. Analysis of the 2015 Pisa results found that children in England were not tested more than in other countries –but since then, England has largely scrapped coursework for GCSEs, and exam resits, while increasing the difficulty and length of tests. Perhaps this is why life satisfaction for all children in the UK – boys and girls – has dropped faster since 2015 than in any other country.
Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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