Student Perspective: How do Saturday DSTs affect students?

By Madeleine COMBOURIEU (2EA)

Having tests on Saturday mornings is always a subject of debate among students, but let’s try to understand in more details what is at stake.

Most fifteen-year-old students should have approximatively eight hours of sleep a night, but some get much less than that, either because they have difficulties falling asleep or because they have homework to do and go to bed too late. A Harvard study shows that teenagers’ brains are very fragile because they are not yet fully developed and can therefore be easily influenced or affected. For example, stress has a very bad impact on the teenage brain, often leading to depression, concentration difficulties, and perhaps most importantly, insomnia.

Source: National Sleep Foundation

As students, we can experience stress in a lot of ways, like before an exam, a performance, or when we can not figure out how to manage time. Therefore, some of us have a hard time finding time to sleep and eat properly when dealing with a heavy schedule, a lot of tests and too much homework. According to Dana.org, there have been lots of studies showing that the lack of sleep affects our brain and “decision making” in a “negative way” (www.dana.org). As we now see, even week days in high school are not so easy for most students, but imagine continuing them into the weekends.

Students who have to take three hours of exams on Saturdays will also have a completely different social and familial life in comparison to their peers. Stéphane Combourieu, a mother of two students, noted that “both of [her] children go to school on Saturday mornings, either to attend a class or to take a test, and I have noticed a drastic difference compared to last year. Their busy schedules affect the life of the whole family: no more eating out with them on Friday night, no more sleeping in on Saturday!” This demonstrates how these events affect not only the students but whole families.

Indeed, our Friday nights often filled with work, stress and also frustration at seeing how other teenagers get to meet their friends, have an entire weekend, hang out with their families, etc. Some feel excluded, leading to lowered self-esteem. Faced with such dire circumstances, every teenager reacts differently: some cannot bear the idea of having only a day and a half of the weekend, so they still go out on Friday, and show up exhausted for their exams the next day, ultimately affecting their overall grades. Others, however, are braver: they work, forget about their friends and yet still do not sleep well, which also affects their grades. Now, both of these cases ultimately result in fatigue, both mental and physical.

Even after the exam is over, the student returns home to more work, with only one day to prepare for the next week. A father of another family, Sylvain Tenaillon, shared his feelings about his son working on Saturdays in high school: “Matthew is much more nervous than last year and struggles to sleep on Friday nights. He comes back worried and tired from his tests on Saturdays and then on Sundays, he needs to catch up on sleep so I can forget about jogging with him! I try to reassure him by telling him that this intense pace is a good preparation for his university years, but deep inside I feel sorry for him.” Such sentiments explain students’ and families’ longing for vacations but that sometimes seem too far away. These feelings can also lead to mental breakdown in which the teenagers feel like they are dedicating all of their youth to work.

A lot of adults say they “wish [they] could turn back time to the good old days” (as the band 21 pilots would say!) to start having fun again with no responsibilities. Here is my question for you: How can we work efficiently and still be happy when we are leading a life that looks like the one we will live in the next 45 years? Isn’t the purpose of adolescence to enjoy life until we can’t any more?

If these exams were taken on week days rather than weekends, we could spend our Friday nights socializing or relaxing and our Saturday nights sleeping in order to be able to work hard and see our family on Sundays. Because let’s not forget that we need to enjoy a social life and rest to be able to live a happy school life.

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