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For Some Teens, a Busy Life Takes Fun Out of High School

This is the VOA Special English Education Report, from | For years the University of California, Los Angeles, has done a national survey of first-year college students. Some questions in the Freshman Survey relate to emotional health and stress. Last year, twenty-nine percent said they often felt "overwhelmed" by all they had to do in their last year of high school. That was two percentage points higher than the year before. There was a big difference between men and women. Almost forty percent of women reported feeling that level of stress, compared to just eighteen percent of men. Deborah Stipek is dean of the School of Education at Stanford University in California. She says a lot of students are under too much pressure from parents and schools. "They are not enjoying what can be the incredible satisfaction of learning and developing understandings and skills. Leaning can be an adventure. But instead of an adventure, it's really about the test, it's about the college application."Professor Stipek recently wrote about this issue in the journal Science. She used the example of her own daughter in high school. Her daughter has taken advanced placement, or AP, courses in French to earn credit toward college. She told her mother she would be happy to never speak French again. Deborah Stipek says, "I think that revealed the real basic problem, which is the AP courses that she was taking in French were not about learning French, not about being able to communicate with a different culture, or to travel, or to have a skill that could be useful in life. It was about getting a score on an AP test that would help her get into the college of her choice."She works with schools to do yearly surveys of students to find out their sources of stress and anxiety and get their ideas for supportive policies. "We've gone into schools where they say 'This isn't a problem.' And then they do a survey of the students, and they are just blown away by what they get back from the students when the students are actually asked."In two thousand nine, a documentary film looked at the pressure on many students to succeed in school and in lives busy with activities and homework. The film is called "Race to Nowhere." Deborak Stipek -- who was interviewed in the film -- says it shows that many students today are not experiencing the joys of learning. They feel under enormous pressure to perform -- "perform," she says, "as opposed to 'learn.'" For VOA Special English, I'm Carolyn Presutti. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 14Jul2011)
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