Daily Bulletin

News

  • Written by Mandie Shean, Lecturer, School of Education, Edith Cowan University

Some Australian students are reportedly shunning Year 12 exams in favour of more favourable, and less stressful, pathways to finishing school. These reports come amid warnings of rising rates of anxiety and depression among young people, with psychologists calling for better mental health support services in schools. Experts say exam stress could be making depression and anxiety worse for vulnerable young people.

Websites set up to support youth mental health use words such as “survive” when it comes to Year 12. Others refer to exam time = stress time.

Exams are certainly challenging. But our rhetoric may be having an impact on the way young people perceive exams. In our efforts to support young people, we may be teaching them to be afraid rather than encouraging them to see exams as a positive challenge.

Anxiety in adolescence

Researchers have for decades considered adolescence to be a stressful time, but it appears the mental health of young Australians has worsened in recent years. Just over 40% of Australian youth indicated mental health was their greatest issue in the 2018 youth survey conducted by Mission Australia. One in four had a probable serious mental-health issue.

Mission Australia’s survey relies on self-reports of young people aged 15-19. The 2018 survey also showed young people’s main concerns were coping with stress (43%) and school (34%). In another survey conducted by mental-health organisation ReachOut, 65.1% of youth reported worrying levels of exam stress in 2018, compared to 51.2% in 2017.

Despite these troubling reports, an analysis of several studies on the prevalence of anxiety actually suggests there has been no such increase. The authors note:

The perceived ‘epidemic’ of common mental disorders is most likely explained by the increasing numbers of affected patients driven by increasing population sizes. Additional factors that may explain this perception include […] greater public awareness, and the use of terms such as anxiety and depression in a context where they do not represent clinical disorders.

This means while some young people have serious anxiety issues, others may be perceiving normal levels of stress as anxiety. And this may have some significant side effects.

Read more: How to overcome exam anxiety

Perception matters

In psychology, appraisal theory posits that our emotional response to an event is determined by our evaluation, or appraisal, of it. Knowing what our appraisal is of a situation helps us determine if it is a threat, if we have sufficient resources to deal with it and, ultimately, if something harmful or bad will happen to us.

In a 2016 US study of appraisals, students in one group were told emotional arousal before an exam was normal and would better help them face a challenge. Another group, the control group, wasn’t provided with any strategies.

Are we teaching children to be afraid of exams? Our appraisal of a situation in many ways determines how we will feel in that situation. from shutterstock.com

Despite all students sitting the exam, researchers found the first group experienced less anxiety and performed better than the second group. They argued the reduced stress was due to the first group appraising their elevated heart rates and other anxiety signs as functional, rather than threatening. So this showed it was the appraisal of students’ feelings that determined how stressed they actually were rather than the event itself.

Appraisals are influenced by the things we value and what we believe to be at stake. Exams might be appraised as “stressful” because youth perceive them as a threat to their future, such as their ability to get a job.

In some cases, exams can be a threat to students’ self-worth. Self-worth is the belief our life has value and is a strong predictor of well-being. If self-worth is tied to academic success it is at risk, as academic success becomes critical for the young person – almost a matter of life or death. This increases their perception of exams and academic measures as threatening.

Read more: Parents, are you feeling the pressure too? Here's how to help your child cope with exam stress

We need challenges

Challenges are an essential and normal part of our development. Drawing a parallel with immunity, resistance to infections doesn’t come from avoiding all contact with germs. On the contrary, avoidance is likely to increase vulnerability rather than promote resilience.

While we should protect young people from high risk situations, such as abuse and trauma, low-level manageable challenges, such as exams, are known as “steeling events” – they help develop young people mentally and emotionally. Allowing students to avoid exams so they avoid stress might be robbing children of the opportunity to deal with the emotions evoked by the challenge. It also teaches them we don’t think they are capable of meeting the challenge.

Young people need to understand study is something they do, not who they are, or they will be vulnerable in this area.

Young people with a diagnosis of anxiety need clinical support to help them succeed through exam periods. But young people experiencing “normal” exam stress should be provided with strategies to help manage stress. These include self-soothing (such as breathing and listening to music) and acknowledging that negative feelings are a normal response to challenges.

Life can stressful, but it is how we see this stress that creates anxiety. Adults could do well helping your people believe they are not passive recipients of stress, but can decide how they view challenges. They also need to help young people believe they have inner resources to manage stressful situations, and that they are worth something, whatever number they get in exams.

Read more: High anxiety: how I use mental exercises to ease my fear of flying

Authors: Mandie Shean, Lecturer, School of Education, Edith Cowan University

Read more http://theconversation.com/are-we-teaching-children-to-be-afraid-of-exams-116741


The Conversation

Politics

Prime Minister on the Alan Jones Show

ALAN JONES: Prime Minister, good morning.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning Alan, how are you? Good to hear you back on the air.   JONES: Thank you. Thank you very much. Can I just - there's a lot...

Alan Jones - avatar Alan Jones

The Greens side with activists, not farmers

The Greens’ Agriculture Spokesperson, Senator Janet Rice, today made some disgraceful comments in relation to the Government’s tough new penalties for keyboard warriors who incite activists to inv...

Senator Bridget McKenzie - avatar Senator Bridget McKenzie

Scott Morrison interview with Alan Jones - 2GB

ALAN JONES: The Prime Minister's on the line from Melbourne, Prime Minister good morning. PRIME MINISTER: Good morning Alan ALAN JONES:  thank you for your time. I wish we had three hours but look...

Alan Jones - avatar Alan Jones

Business News

Tips To Ensure The Best B2B Ecommerce Customer Experience

The B2B ecommerce space offers an incredible array of opportunities. It is has registered growth at more than double the size of B2C ecommerce. These tips will help you greatly in improving your cu...

News Company - avatar News Company

Multi-channel Ecommerce And Its Unparalleled Benefits

With severe competition within the ecommerce industry nowadays, exercising measures for expansion has become crucial. When you’re planning to dive into areas of growing your business into a full-fle...

News Company - avatar News Company

Top 5 Reasons Businesses Are Shifting From Magento To Shopify

Although building an online business has been made simpler by the extensive use of the internet, maintaining its success is a journey rather than a destination. It involves critical decisions made a...

News Company - avatar News Company

Travel

DEAL: Kids stay and eat for FREE these school holidays!

Take these school holidays to the next level with the ultimate family escape at PARKROYAL Darling Harbour. What’s more, kids under 12 years of age, can stay and eat for FREE! ...

Liana Gardy - avatar Liana Gardy

How to Book a Hotel for Your Vietnam Trip

Finding a travel destination may turn out to be challenging at times. You may have a long bucket list, which leaves you spoilt for choice on where to visit first. Going through travel blogs and site...

News Company - avatar News Company

New Allianz data reveals the ‘forgotten’ European countries attracting Australian travellers this winter

FROM SPAIN TO THE UKRAINE - THE SURPRISE EUROPEAN DESTINATIONS BOOMING WITH AUSSIE TOURISTS Australian travellers are seeking new destinations beyond the Mediterranean when it comes to European...

Media Release - avatar Media Release

ShowPo