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Students experiencing burnout after GSAT - psychologist

Published:Tuesday | March 15, 2016 | 12:00 AMAndre Poyser

Educational psychologist Kellie-Anne Brown Campbell has raised concerns that students starting high school are experiencing burnout. This, she says, appears to be the after-effect of a high level of stress associated with the Grade Six Achievement Examination (GSAT).

"The high schools have been complaining, from what I understand, about the seventh-graders because once they hit high school, it's almost as if they don't have anything else to give. They flatline because they are tired," she said in an interview with The Gleaner.

Brown Campbell explained that the pressure placed on students to perform well in the GSAT examinations creates a burden of responsibility that can affect them psychologically long after the examinations have ended and results have been released.

"From a developmental perspective, there is this unrealistic sense of responsibility that is placed on their shoulders that says, 'Look! If you don't do well on this thing, this is what is going to happen: you are going to shame yourself and shame your family, and so on'. So they are taking on a level of emotional stress and responsibility that really and truly at their age, they should not have to be dealing with," she added.




Child psychologist Gemma Gibbon is convinced that GSAT students themselves do not fully appreciate the level of stress that they come under in preparing for the examinations.

"The kids, I think, don't even understand the pressure that the parents are putting them under for their needs because the kids are sitting these exams to please their parents and to get to the school that their parents want them to go to. They are not learning for their own motivation, so the pressure is huge, and they can't ever satisfy the pressure put on them," she said.

According to Brown Campbell, this kind of intense pressure is unhealthy for children. She pointed to symptoms of burnout that parents can look for in their children.

"Some of the symptoms, especially as we get closer to the exam, parents and teachers will complain about the students being unsettled. Sometimes, for some children who were doing well, their grades start plummeting and you find some children even acting out. For other children, it may be the opposite: they just want to sleep and they don't want to do anything. They lose interest completely in every single thing, so it's a lot of symptoms, anxiety-type symptoms, too," she explained.

Brown Campbell urges parents to create balance in their children's study schedule and also to ensure that they get adequate rest.