It’s ridiculous to put a kid through 13 years of schooling only to have their capabilities measured solely through a bunch of three hour exams at the end of it all. It’s even worse to say the outcome of these exams will dictate how the rest of their life will play out when that’s simply not the case. To top it off, the pressure is at its worst just as the student is experiencing huge physical, emotional, and social changes. Not only is it ridiculous, but it’s damaging the mental health of young people all over Australia. This is a public service announcement to students everywhere: your mental health is more important than a mark.

Year 12 is bloody hard, and don’t let anybody convince you otherwise. Last year we ran a survey asking students specifically how they felt about the final year of high school, and 70% of you said that you felt ‘stressed’. 66% said you felt ‘anxious’, and only 30% of you felt ‘excited’.

Other sources paint a worse picture. Mission Australia recently released a report that shows a growing number of young Australians aged 15-19 with symptoms of probable serious mental illness; the figure has grown from just 19% in 2012 to 23% in 2016.

This trend is also evident in the rising number of Year 12 students seeking special provisions in their final exams. The South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE) Board reported over 1,150 students applied for these in 2015, and the NSW figure is said to have increased 62% since 2011.

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While some of these growing figures can be attributed to our society learning how to recognise mental health issues, it would be too simplistic to claim that this is the sole reason. Experts in the field have said that the pressure Year 12 students face today are greater than they were in the past. This is due to a uncertain job market, housing prices, and rapidly changing technology. When you take these things into account alongside the stress of final examinations, it’s easy to see how the mental health of young people is deteriorating.

Often, final year exams are not even worth the stress they cause. Education experts are starting to view the ATAR as outdated, a measuring system that is far too focused on examinations when there are other ways to determine a student’s capabilities.

Even within the current system, a student’s future is not entirely decided by the results of the test, either. There is a myriad of post-school options that can get you to where you want to, conventional or not. There are pathway programs with unis, TAFE courses, apprenticeships and traineeships – even gap years abroad are starting to be valued by employers and experience in the real world is becoming more and more important.

After a few years, nobody will even ask about your ATAR. You may even forget it after a while. The things you will keep with you afterwards are your memories, your attitude towards hard work and the friendships you developed over the years. You need to make those count, because they’re more important than any mark.

Here at Year13 we encourage anyone struggling to speak out and seek help if you need it:

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