Canterbury Baptist Church is situated in the heart of Melbourne’s private schools. Within two kilometres of the church there are six private schools, two public schools, and a number of primary schools. The suburb has one of the highest university entrance rates within the country, and is one of the wealthiest areas in Melbourne. It produces the leaders of tomorrow, in any industry you can think of. Students are well-educated, well-resourced, and driven.
But there’s a problem.
Expectations on students in this area is astronomical. Expectations come from parents, who have paid plenty of money for their child’s education. Expectations come from teachers and schools, who expect a certain level of achievement for their organisation. And then there is the students own expectations, the results needed for their university course, the ATAR score to match their peers, and a false understanding that their final marks dictate the next 40-50 years.
But this problem isn’t just limited to wealthy areas of Melbourne.
It occurs in every part of the state and country.
Expectations placed on students in their final years of high school has seen many deal with high levels of stress, an increase in anxiety, and even depression. The amount of VCE students with health concerns, mental illness, breakdowns, and other physical symptoms causes concern for friends, family, schools, and society.
In Victoria, all students, at the end of year 12, are ranked against each other. This is known as the Australia Tertiary Entrance Rank (ATAR), where each student is ranked against another from 99.95 down to below 20. In essence, each student is competing against their fellow classmates to see who will achieve a higher score.
By the time a student is 17 years old they have been taught that their results are the most important thing in their life. And while we’d like to think that everyone is simply trying their best, the pressure and expectations from the system tells otherwise.
The underlying assumption taught to our students is that their final score defines their intrinsic and extrinsic worth. In other words, their identity is wrapped up in what they achieve in their final two years of their schooling.
So, for a number of years it has been my desire to write a devotional series for VCE students that speaks to the heart of their identity. Often we define ourselves, often we allow others to define us. In the bible we see it is God who defines who we are.
Identity is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. It is central to how we understand ourselves in light of being Spirit-filled followers of Jesus.
It is my hope this series will help you as a student, or anyone who reads these posts, to understand God and who he has created you to be. I hope to shift your mind to consider how God truly sees you, rather than what others and our wider culture forces upon you. Rather than simply being a number ranked among your peers, you are a unique individual made to glorify God. You are indeed more than a number.
I will kick the series off on Wednesday 1st November, a few hours before all students undertake the English exam. From there daily reflections (I hope!) can be delivered directly to your email (see below) or you can find them through my FB page.
Here’s the list of the various posts for this devotional series: