National Exams Greet Students with Anxiety

Jun 15 , 2019
By Tsion Fisseha

The national examination for the 8th, 10th and 12th grade students came upon us last week. It is a time of stress and anxiety for students as the results of the examinations determine the fate of everyone who sit for them. I remember the first time I sat for a national examination in 8th grade. First, there was the preparation, which meant setting the alarm clock to get up in the middle of the night to study when there was less distraction. Then there is filling the forms without errors, followed by the actual day of the test.

I remember sitting next to a girl with the same first name as me. She was mumbling a prayer beneath her breath. She had a cross on one hand and a bible on the other. Meanwhile, I had my sharpened pencils, sharpener, eraser and my admission card all placed neatly on my desk.

I was prepared to take the tests, because I had studied for them. For the first time that year, however, I thought about the possibility of failing. What will become of me? What will I do? How will I explain it to my parents?

Luckily, I didn’t fail. I actually passed with flying colors and then sat for two more of those national tests until I was sent off to college. Looking back at all those classes I attended and all the national examinations I had prepared for, I don’t remember once thinking about what the future would hold. Not once was any student approached by school personnel to discuss their passions and desires and to figure out the professional path that they should follow.

This is of course forgetting all the obvious replies of being doctors and engineers the students gave when asked what they would like to be when they grew up.

In my case, even after going to college, never having been exposed to the various possibilities, I blindly chose and blindly continued choosing with hopes that somehow, I would ultimately and eventually land on the right track.

National examinations are set up to differentiate the smart from the not so smart. They are set up in a way where students spend years memorising their textbooks from cover to cover only to forget them once the tests are over. When it comes to counseling the students on what comes after years of studying and taking one test after the other, however, little to no emphasis is given.

That is why it is no surprise that in the second year of college an economics student told his advisor, “I have started studying to get a license to be able to operate big trucks, because I have come to learn that there is more money in that than economics.”

Confused students grow up to be confused workers the same way confused teenagers become confused adults. Education is necessary. There is no question about that. But advice and consultation are the backbone of a good educational system that wants to produce good human beings. Because at the grassroots level, these things have a tendency to create a chain reaction that ultimately affects the overall advancement of the country.

Of course, now the internet provides infinite guidance and recommendations - from books to pep talks to various blogs and vlogs - encircling the past experiences of people all over the world. There are also some platforms engaging the youth that desire to know what the future holds, but these are not enough.

These support systems should not be optional for students. They should somehow be incorporated into the curriculum alongside math, physics and art. Google global education evangelist Jaime Casap once said, “Don’t ask kids what they would like to be when they grow up, but what they want to solve. This changes the conversation from who do I want to work for, to what do I plan to learn to be able to do that.”

PUBLISHED ON Jun 15,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 998]

Tsion Fisseha is a writer and head of foreign languages in the news department at a local TV station. She has been a part of a pan African poetry slam competition representing Ethiopia and is a member of a rock band entitled the Green Manalishi. She can be reached at

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