VCE is a strenuous time in an adolescent’s life. It is my opinion that VCE, or the equivalent curriculum in other states, is not as important as your peers, teachers or even parents make out to be. Some of the most successful people in the world in their fields of expertise, such as business, education, philanthropy, music and even highly specific fields like chess, were university dropouts, high school dropouts or just general failures in school. Examples include Bill Gates, Richard Branson, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Walt Disney, Thomas Edison, Elvis Presley, Sachin Tendulkar, John D Rockefeller, Michael Dell, Steve Jobs, Henry Ford and Pablo Picasso. VCE is not the pinnacle of your life; it is just one small aspect of it. As my Year 11 English teacher said, “When you look back on your VCE in a couple of years time, you’ll realise that it is just a score.” Next time you are feeling down or stressed about VCE, spare a thought for those who turned their failures in school into sterling success in life, and remember that VCE will have a negligible impact on your health, happiness and success throughout your life.
There is a misconception that a person’s VCE score is a measure of their intelligence. In reality, VCE only measures a small part of intelligence, which is academic intelligence. Hence, it is harsh for the system to label one person ‘dumb’ and another ‘clever’ simply via one narrow metric. This may destroy a person’s self confidence for little reason. You cannot determine a person’s intelligence just by some measly little tests. True intelligence takes into account a range of other fields including financial intelligence, emotional intelligence, naturalist intelligence, logical intelligence, intrapersonal intelligence, existential intelligence, survival intelligence and sporting intelligence.
The current schooling system is also unreasonable in another major way. Through tests and exams, the education system suggests that ‘mistakes’ are bad and encourages perfectionism. In my opinion, this is a completely incorrect and hazardous philosophy. Making mistakes is imperative and learning from our mistakes is the most powerful way to learn. Edison failed over 10,000 times before he was able to create a working light bulb. As the poet, activist and author Nikki Giovanni said: “Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to error that counts.” Tackle your mistakes, both in VCE and in other areas of life, with a positive frame of mind and regard every one as a learning opportunity.
I am not trying to say that you should fail VCE and avoid going to university. I am merely pointing out that academic education is by no means critical for your success. Attending high school and then university is a smart decision for the vast majority of people. Universities drastically boost employment and without them, our society would collapse. What you will learn by going to university will not only be academic thinking, but also essential skills like communication, time management, organisation, computer literacy, budget management and leadership.
Despite what my opening paragraphs may have implied, I am a firm believer in education. The correct type of education is vital and will lead a person on the road to success. I do not know of a better way to run the system, so while I have some qualms about it, it is the best method we have. For one thing, it prevents people completely lacking in mental capacity from becoming our doctors (as the study of medicine requires top end VCE scores). What a disaster it would be if such a person were to become a surgeon or general practitioner. This would be a very serious matter as human lives would be at stake.
I have listed some positives and negatives about the system. Nevertheless, VCE or equivalent curricula are basically compulsory at Year 11 and 12 level, so how should one approach it? I contend that, since today’s society is rapidly changing, we should complete VCE to a high standard in order to keep our options open. Keeping our options open is crucial as Year 12 students are at a stage in their lives where they are still rapidly discovering new things about themselves, finding out who they are, and what they want to become. However, while a certain amount of effort should be dedicated to VCE, do not burn your spirit away while working at your studies. VCE is only one small aspect of your life. You don’t want all the life sucked out of you only to realise that something you put so much effort into can potentially be worth little. You must brace your soul for the much more important things that will occur in the decades that follow your high school years. Always keep an eye out for the big picture.
I would like to leave you with a quote that is close to my heart. My hero, the investor, industrialist and philanthropist Warren Buffett asserted: “You don’t have to be the best. You do what you can do and as long as you have fun doing it and have a positive attitude about it, things tend to work out.” In times of uncertainty, it never hurts to keep a positive frame of mind.