I was afraid of vicious dogs getting out of their yards and chasing me as I walked home from the school bus stop. I was afraid of being kidnapped. I was afraid of the world being destroyed in a nuclear war.
But what are 10-year-olds today afraid of? Well, I can tell you what my 10-year-old daughter’s classmates fear.
There’s a series of posters stuck up outside my daughter’s classroom. On the posters, the students have shared their dreams for the future and their fears. I started to read them, thinking they might be cute. Instead, as I read my way through them, I found myself becoming sad. Really sad.
The kids had a range of fears – insects, wild animals, clowns – but there was one that kept turning up over and over: failing a test.
“If I fail a test my parents will yell at me and they will take away all my toys,” one child wrote.
LISTEN: An Adults Guide For Getting Through The HSC.Holly and Andrew share their HSC tips. Post continues after audio.
These kids are 10. They’re not even in their final year of primary school yet. But already they’re terrified of getting a bad mark?
I remember getting really stressed about marks when I was in school. But I’m sure that was only in the last few years of high school.
Nowadays, kids do the Best Start assessment before they begin school, and then NAPLAN in Years 3 and 5. I can see from the number of NAPLAN workbooks on sale at my local supermarket that plenty of parents are determined for their kids to do well in the tests. I’ve heard of little kids being tutored in preparation for their Best Start assessment, too.
Did we have that kind of pressure in primary school? I don’t remember it.
The parents at my daughter’s school want their kids to learn as much as they can, as early as they can. I remember, when my daughter was in preschool, overhearing another mother asking the teacher why the children weren’t working on reading and writing. I remember the teacher trying to explain the concept of learning through play.
Picking up my daughter from school, I have overheard other parents, several times, asking for more homework for their child. I have no idea of how many children at the school are being tutored, but I would suspect a few, from the number of tutoring businesses offering their services nearby.
Maybe I’m the odd one out here, but can’t all this pressure on kids to do well academically wait until high school, at least? Aren’t those years going to be horrific enough, without us having to ruin kids’ primary school years as well?
These parents at my daughter’s school are looking to the future. They want their children to get results that are good enough to get them into the top university courses.
But there are only a certain number of places in medicine. No matter how hard people push their children, not all of them can get in.
What’s the price these kids pay? A childhood overshadowed by the fear of doing badly in a test?
All 10-year-olds have fears. I had mine. My daughter has hers. I just find it sad when a child’s fear basically boils down to disappointing their parents.
LISTEN: This Glorious Mess: Dad vs Internet.