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The Jewish Report Editorial

Pitfalls of matric panic

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As an adult, have you ever been asked how many distinctions you got for matric and what your marks were? I certainly haven’t, not since I got into university many moons ago. It’s not something that really matters after you start working or studying.

But we place so much emphasis on these exams and their results. We put huge pressure on our children to excel in that year more than any other, and we – the parents – also get super stressed about their performance that year.

Parents’ stress is sometimes even worse than their children’s and worse than it was when they themselves were in matric. You would think they were doing the exams themselves. Having said that, as a parent in matric this year, I actually think I would be less stressed if I was doing matric myself. Oy vey!

Is the hype really necessary? Isn’t there some other way of going through this? We asked some experts. Read what King David High School Linksfield Principal Lorraine Srage wrote.

And how do we best parent a teenager through matric? This we asked former Herzlia High School Principal Marc Falconer to consider.

How important is it for our children to know exactly what they want to do after matric? King David Victory Park High School Headmaster Andrew Baker gives us his thoughts.

And how much do cultural activities during and before matric contribute to our matriculants? Redhill Head of School Joseph Gerassi gives us his insights.

You got it, this edition, after the posting of matric results last week, is steeped full of insights and stories relating to matric and school in general.

But back to why we make such a big deal of this particular year.

The truth is, there are so many who don’t perform to their optimum in matric and go on to become very successful. There are also those who get 10 distinctions don’t land up happy in their chosen careers. That’s life!

I’m one of the few who studied exactly what fitted me and fell into a career that I loved and continue to love.

So many change careers two or three times in their lives. That isn’t to say they weren’t happy in their first and second iterations, but they changed because the time was right for it.

Why do we put so much pressure on our kids in matric? To get into university?

That’s true, and as Jewish parents, it’s also about wanting to give our children the best basis for life. We somehow believe that the better they do in the matric, the easier life will be for them. I’m of this opinion, but I’m not sure it’s necessarily true. Just look around us. Is this the case?

I know I was always told by my parents that education is the one thing that nobody can take from you. This is true, but this is about education in general, not just matric.

I may not always live this out, but I do believe we put way too much emphasis on matric and much too much pressure on our children. Some aren’t quadruple-A kids. Some aren’t able to swot. Some are going to do something that won’t require a matric with multiple As.

We parents live with the “what if” our children don’t get those many distinctions and will be forever disappointed if they didn’t get into medicine or chemical engineering. Will they live with regrets? Perhaps they will, or maybe they will decide down the line to go back to school to get the marks they need. In fact, they may well go to university as a mature student and not need all those distinctions. The truth is, we don’t know and, more important, it’s not our path, it’s our children’s.

We need to learn to accept that the huge pressure we’re putting on them isn’t helping them in any way. It’s only making their lives more stressful and unpleasant.

It would be interesting to compare those matriculants whose parents didn’t pressurise them and those who did, and their results. Who got the distinctions? Which children were happier?

Being a parent is the toughest job, and I’m constantly reminded that it’s one in which I don’t believe I’ll ever be awarded distinctions. I’m also always reminded that I cannot control things the way I would like to. To be a good parent, we need to listen to our children who have so much pressure and stress in their lives anyway, they certainly don’t need more. It’s easier said than done, especially because I lost the damn rule book to parenting. And nobody seems to have one to lend me.

We need to remember that the world we know isn’t the world in which they are living, and their careers will take place in a world where AI (artificial intelligence) rules apply. Their careers will be ones we don’t understand, nor will we be able to guide them. We need to accept that things are different today and are fast becoming more and more different. On the career front, things are changing so quickly. See story on ChatGPT on page 5, which won’t be the last on such issues.

If matric is tough in general, the class of 2022 had the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic and were then hit with the double whammy of severe load shedding just before and during their finals.

And yet their results were phenomenal! And every parent, no matter how tough they were on their kids, has reason to celebrate. These are amazing young adults who will go on to make us proud.

The point is, through the difficulties they faced in senior high school, they learnt to adapt and be flexible, which are traits that will stand them in good stead through life.

Kol hakavod to the 2022 matriculants! You did us proud!

And to those who have just gone into matric and other grades this year, we wish you the best of luck! You are our future, and you too will do us proud!

Shabbat Shalom!

Peta Krost


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