Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Mental health is as important as grades

Northern Ireland pupils can hold their heads high when it comes to their performance in reading, maths and science, scoring above the world average in all three subjects. (stock photo)
Northern Ireland pupils can hold their heads high when it comes to their performance in reading, maths and science, scoring above the world average in all three subjects. (stock photo)

Editor's Viewpoint

Northern Ireland pupils can hold their heads high when it comes to their performance in reading, maths and science, scoring above the world average in all three subjects.

They are particularly strong in reading, although their peers in the Republic performed even better, which may be a disappointment for educationalists in the province.

In the two important subjects of science and maths, the score was just above the global average but nevertheless a creditable result.

The one area of concern is that performance in science seems to have regressed in recent years. Research is needed into why this is happening.

The pupils' reading performance is all the more remarkable given that six out of ten said they did not read for enjoyment. Presumably, the burden of course work and reading that is required for their academic subjects means they seek other forms of enjoyment in their downtime, such as social media or gaming.

Yet as anyone who enjoys reading - and that means many of the children's parents, who had fewer options in their teenage years - will testify, there is no greater sense of escapism than to immerse oneself in a good book.

How often have we all thought that the film of a book never measures up to the images created in our own imaginations when reading the original?

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Teenagers today are fortunate. Not only do they have the classics enjoyed by generations to read, but they have their own genre of young adult fiction marketed directly at them. The benefits of that could be greater than they imagine.

The survey of children from around the world found that those in Northern Ireland are more likely to feel sad, scared or worried and to feel their lives have no purpose.

Those are dilemmas and concerns which often afflict young people uncertain of what life holds for them.

Those are themes often explored in the young adult fiction genre, making it a great consolation for those who feel they have nowhere else to turn to for advice or support.

Children are often told that school days are the best days of their life but today, in the more highly pressurised modern society, with its attendant problems of cyber-bullying and the desire to succeed, school days can also be a time of significant angst.

The mental health of pupils is as important as their academic attainments.

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