S(tress)AS: Exploring the Competitive Culture Fostered In SAS

As you walk into the bustling cafeteria, you instantly take notice of the segregation of lunch tables by grade levels, the never-ending line at subway, and the students shouting across floors. Amid all the chaos and yelling it’s often difficult to be able to make out conversations between friends. However, there are a few staple phrases that will always be heard in this sea of students: “What did you get on the summative?”; “How did I not get an A, it’s not even one of my hard classes.”

hana and faisal
Seniors, Hana Matsudaira and Faisal Halabiah, anxiously checking the grades online during lunch. Photo Credit: Avanya Rao

The number of students trying desperately to get wifi to finish their assignments or flocking to the library to prepare for a test they have next period is absurd. Even though lunch represents the one break specifically designated for eating, relaxing, and catching up with peers, the stress on SAS High School students is far from alleviated in the average routine of our daily 35-minute lunch period.

SAS makes a commitment towards hearing concerns voiced by its students, and while this is appreciated, students question how far the administration is willing to go to ensure a happier and less stressful educational environment. There is the general concern that while it is important to hear teachers and students voice these issues in the form of assemblies and discussions, it won’t change the current environment SAS has fostered.

In SAS, we have students taking a wide range of courses with different levels of academic rigor. Shockingly, the average number of advanced placement (AP) courses students take over their high school career ranges from six to ten. In comparison to other AP schools around the world, these numbers suggest an excessive amount of academic ambition, as worldwide trends report that the average AP student takes fewer than seven.

Of course, the mentality surrounding academics and grades is created by SAS students and their competitiveness…

Similarly, every year approximately a third of each grade in SAS receives honor roll for one of the semesters. Having a high GPA, extensive course rigor, and balancing extracurricular activities has, in turn, become one of the prerequisites of being a Singapore American School high school student. 

This sense of competitiveness may in part be credited to peer pressure, but most students feel that the best way to change this mentality is if the SAS administrators were to get involved. Several students, who chose to remain anonymous, shared their opinions:

“Of course, the mentality surrounding academics and grades is created by SAS students and their competitiveness, but the only way that this can change is if the administrators make significant efforts to change this.”

“The biggest shift that needs to take place is among the administration and teachers. It is because of the extensive workload and immediate consequences for not completing assignments that students are so competitive. There is a lack of communication between teachers in terms of the workload and that is what needs to change.”

Junior, Sabrina Sain, reflecting on a grade she was not content with: a B+. Photo Credit: Avanya Rao

It is important to note that there have been several undoubtedly large changes made in the last couple of years with the intention of improving and strengthening the SAS environment and aiming to help students deal with their stresses. Advisory and the house system are the first to come to mind. The implementation of these programs is fairly new, so it is difficult to judge whether these efforts will, in fact, help to provide students with the confidence that they are not failures, regardless of their academic course rigor and transcripts.

The fact is that being a part of a community like Singapore American School, students do put an immense amount pressure on themselves to succeed; it is a stretch and much easier said than done to tell students to worry less about their grades than for this to actually become a reality.  However, with support from teachers, parents, and administrators, students can work to find a healthy balance between their overall success and personal well-being.

Author: Avanya Rao

Avanya Rao is a Senior who has attended SAS for the past twelve years. This is her second year reporting for The Eye. When not taking videos of her dog, you can find Avanya crying in romantic comedies, spending time with her friends and family, and annoying her pals by losing snapchat streaks. She can be contacted at rao32417@sas.edu.sg.

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