Lockdown anxiety increases for students as university entry exams approaches
"Not going to school is more stressful than I thought, my classmates helped me cope with this year but it is harder without them"
“I often feel stressed, nervous, moody, and sensitive when I think about Selectivitat (the university entrance exams.) Clearly, if doing the exams usually produces anxiety, this year with the coronavirus situation, it’s even worse,” Zaida Coll explained, a student at the Castell d’Estela secondary school in Amer who is currently in the 2nd grade of the ‘Batxillerat’, the Catalan equivalent to the UK’s A levels.
This situation, with the closure of classrooms before the end of the term, non-face-to-face lessons, and the rearranging of the university entry exams, has seen an increase in students’ suffering. “I’m very anxious not knowing how everything is going to be in the coming months. I had everything planned and now I know almost nothing,” complained Kiranjot Kaur, an 18-year-old student of the Rafael Campalans high school in Anglès, who is studying the science option of the exams.
Secondary schools in Catalonia have adapted. They have changed the teaching methodology and the assessments to make the 3rd term easier for all students facing the university entrance exams. Not every student has the same resources at home to follow the lessons, and in some places the Wi-Fi connection is awful.
Preparing for university entrance exams without in-person teacher
“It is very difficult for the students to work from home without the opportunity to ask questions at the moment they are working. Although, having done a great effort to organize and deliver the tasks every week, some students have found it hard to get used to this new situation,” Imma Batlle explained, a Catalan language teacher at the Rafael de Campalans secondary school.
In fact, each student is living these lockdown months differently. For instance, Arnau Pagès, a humanities student at Rafael de Campalans, assured that staying home all day without any classmates allows him to work and focus better on the study material because he doesn’t have any distractions.
On the other hand, students like Zaida Coll miss being at school with friends. “Not going to school is more stressful than I thought. My classmates were helping me a lot to cope with this school year but without all them, it is harder.” The 2nd year of the entrance exams is a difficult one, with a lot of studying and pressure to get through all of the course material.
The assessment of the 3rd term isn’t going to harm the students, they can only benefit to be more prepared for the university entry exams because the final grade depends on the whole course trajectory since they started until the end of the 2nd term.
During these weeks, teachers are sending tasks and exercises to the students via e-mail or uploading them to the online portals used by teachers and students. Under no circumstances will the course syllabus be reduced because “the more syllabus they have, the more possibilities to have better results in the tests,” Batlle said.
Exams delayed one month and different conditions
Due to the state of alarm decreed by the Spanish government, the ministry of education and universities have postponed the entry exams by a month. This year, some 35,000 students will take the tests from July 7-10 rather than the originally scheduled June 9-11.
This decision by the government to prolong the exam dates by one day more is to allow students to do the exams according to the health measures imposed due to the coronavirus crisis. Furthermore, the tests aren’t going to be held only in the universities like other years, but rather in the secondary schools themselves. The knowledge and education departments of the government have agreed to this step to guarantee the distancing and cleanliness necessary for the health of the students.
But this is not the only modification. The tests are going to change a bit, depending on the subjects. All of them are going to have more choices for the students, instead of the usual two options of the tests in past years. “I think this is a good system. If there aren’t mandatory exercises, students won’t have to answer the questions of the syllabus they won’t have studied in class,” said Kiranjot Kaur, who has to achieve an eleven to apply for the Medicine degree.
Unfortunately, the Catalan government doesn’t dismiss another postponement of the exams, a measure that would be detrimental for students. “Now we are learning and studying all the contents and we have it all fresh in our minds, but doing the tests later than July would make us lose this knowledge,” said Arnau Pagès.
Albert Prat, a classical languages teacher in the Jaume Vicens Vives high school in Girona agreed. “The only time that should go by between the end of the course until the exams should be the amount of time that students need to revise the contents of the year.”
In fact, some students, such as Magalí Soler from Montilivi secondary in Girona, aren’t confident about facing the exams in proper conditions because they feel that they won’t be able to study all the necessary content. “The postponement of the tests gives us more time to get ready, but we can’t do it in the conditions we would prefer. Solving a doubt or a question virtually is very different from doing a sum up of the entire course syllabus,” she said.
Set time slots for university entrance exams
The Catalan government has set several set time slots for the university entrance exams this year. The aim is to avoid crowds in the breaks between exams and reduce the time students have to remain in educational facilities.
Before these plans were revealed on May 25, several teachers had said that the administration had been sending very little information to schools at a time when it is important to give reassurance to students. “The Department of Education has given solutions little by little, and always inform the media before the schools,” said Imma Batlle.
Most students feel tired from the difficulties and the problems they have to cope with during this school year. They also feel sad because some of the celebratory activities planned have been canceled. “We won’t be able to celebrate graduation, and the annual school trip is canceled as well. Moreover, a lot of people wanted to work this summer in order to pay the university studies but that seems difficult,” Zaida Coll said.
Uncertainty surrounding 2020-21 university course
The beginning of the 2020-21 university course is another issue without solutions yet, and students are concerned about that. Magalí Soler wants to study nutrition in Barcelona, but she doesn’t know how the lessons are going to be taught in September. “If classrooms are going to be online, renting a flat in the big city won’t be a good decision,” she said.
These worries over the next school year aren’t the immediate priority for students, but for most, they are a cause of anxiety and fear.