Early June and the beginning of State Examinations strikes fear and trepidation into the hearts of many families. The sitting of the examinations with its formal context, strict rules, locked and sealed examination paper boxes and external invigilators is very stressful in itself. However, for those sitting the Leaving Certificate in particular, it is often seen as the culmination of fourteen years of formal education and so much of future plans are dependent on the results. It is no wonder that every year we hear calls for the reform of the education system so that more emphasis is put on a “continual assessment” model which takes into account the consistent performance of the student rather than just taking into account their performance on one or two examination day(s) depending on the subject.
It has to be argued that in today’s world where so much information is readily available and easily accessible, the emphasis in examinations should not be on what a student can remember but rather on their ability to make intelligent use of the information sources available. The problems of our current examination system have been extensively debated, and whilst there have been some curricular and system changes, much still needs to be done. The focussing of so much pressure on approximately two week at the end of Secondary School has too many negative consequences.
One of these can be that desperate sense of anxiety, hopelessness and helplessness that is associated with depression. And this in turn is fuelling an increase in the numbers of those considering taking their own lives. The recent spate of those who have fallen victim to suicide is extremely worrying. In one recent weekend it claimed five victims in the Galway area – all under the age of 25. This past weekend saw yet another victim here in Dublin of someone who had just graduated from school the previous Friday and was due to start their Leaving Certificate in the coming days. Our thoughts and prayers are with all victims’ families as they struggle to come to terms with their loss and pain. They are also with those families whose loved ones are continuing to battle with depression as they seek to understand how best they can provide the support so desperately needed.
As we prepare to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost on 8th June let us remember some of the final words of Jesus to his disciples, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” John 14:16-17 (NRSV). In this passage, the Greek word “Paraclete” translated as Advocate has also been variously translated as Comforter, Counsellor or Friend.
In our prayers may we have the faith to ask that those whom we love and those for whom we have concern may sense that presence of the “Paraclete” with them. I would like to wish all those sitting examinations and those awaiting results every blessing at this time and the presence of the “Paraclete” always.
With every blessing,
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