It’s no secret that school can be stressful for students. Between piles of homework, endless studying, and constant testing, many students feel completely overwhelmed with academic pressure. While it’s understandable that schools want students to work hard and succeed, the immense stress placed on students in today’s education system has reached unhealthy levels. Schools need to find a better balance between challenging students academically and ensuring their mental health and wellbeing.
One of the biggest issues is the intense focus on standardized testing. Tests like the SAT and ACT have become incredibly high-stakes. Students’ scores determine which colleges they get into and what scholarships they receive. The pressure to perform well on these tests is immense. Many students spend hours upon hours studying, hire expensive tutors, and take the test multiple times in hopes of boosting their score just a few points higher. All this stress drastically impacts students’ mental health. It’s no wonder rates of anxiety and depression are skyrocketing among high school students. Schools’ laser focus on test scores also takes away from actual learning. Instead of exploring topics in depth or learning for the sake of gaining knowledge, everything revolves around test prep and regurgitating information. This obsessive focus on testing marginalizes actual education.
The amount of homework assigned has also increased dramatically. A study by the National Assessment of Educational Progress found the average high school student does over 3 hours of homework per night. Combine this with extracurricular activities and part-time jobs many students take on, and there’s hardly any time left for relaxation or family time. Too much homework leads to sleep deprivation, as students stay up late trying to finish assignments. This takes a serious toll on their mental and physical health. With little time to decompress, many students become incredibly stressed and burnt out. Reducing the homework load would allow students more time to actually process what they learned in school and pursue other passions and social activities.
Academic competition between students has also intensified. Class rankings, valedictorians, salutatorians and other academic ‘honors’ pit students against each other. This competitive culture breeds anxiety as students worry about how they measure up compared to their peers. It also discourages students from collaborating or helping lift each other up. When academic success is viewed as a zero-sum game, with students feeling peer pressure to stand out whatever the cost, it often brings out the worst in people. Removing class rankings and deemphasizing competition could foster a healthier school environment.
While it’s important to have high expectations and push students to reach their potential, schools have taken it too far. Overwhelming workloads, hypercompetitive cultures, and excessive academic pressure is hurting students more than helping them. Yes, school should be challenging, but schools also have a responsibility to protect students’ mental and physical health. After all, what’s the purpose of gaining good grades and high test scores if students are miserable?
Schools should rethink how they’re preparing students for the future. Allowing more free time and play time boosts creativity and social-emotional learning. Project-based learning develops critical thinking and problem solving skills. Internship programs give students practical real world experience and insight into careers. There are many ways to teach students effectively without grinding them down.
Academic success is important, but it should never come at the expense of students’ health and wellbeing. Kids are still developing and our education system needs to be reformed to nurture them more holistically. With some changes to ease the pressure, school can become a more enriching experience that enables students to thrive. The goal shouldn’t just be good grades and test scores, but also happy, confident, and resilient young adults. Schools that find that balance will produce graduates not just primed for academic success, but also able to handle real world challenges and lead fulfilling lives. That is the true measure of an excellent education system.