Wednesday 27 April 2016

Should I Encourage My Students Not to Fast During Exam Season?

You may or may not have noticed that Ramadan largely coincides with A2 exam season this year. All of the A2 maths exams this year are during Ramadan. As I have 18 Muslim students in my A Level maths class (and one Christian) this could have a big impact on my results. As a teacher (and form tutor), should I try to gently persuade my students that fasting might not be a good idea?

During Ramadan, Muslims do not eat or drink (even water) during daylight hours. This means staying up pretty late (in summer) to eat, and going hungry and thirsty most of the day. All exam advice I've ever read definitely says make sure you get plenty of sleep, eat a good nutritious breakfast, and keep your brain well-hydrated. Therefore surely fasting is going to lead to worse results?

Kids do not have to fast, technically, only adults, but most of the young people I know do choose to fast (or possibly their parents force them?) and are often very proud of the fact that they do. In case you are worried for their safety, I should point out that Muslims break their fast when they are ill (and make up the time afterwards) and girls do not fast when they are menstruating. Fasting is not about self-punishment or about inflicting suffering on yourself.

So should I try to convince my students not to fast? I do believe that fasting makes a difference to exam performance, and obviously I do want my students to do their best (because I care about them, not because I may get a good performance-management rating, for once). However, I don't want to encourage them not to fast. I can see that fasting is important to them, and helps them connect to God. Surely that is more important than exam results at the end of the day (or the end of life, in fact)?

As an Atheist, I don't believe that pleasing God is going to have any kind of positive effect in this life or the next, but I do believe that spirituality has an overall positive effect on a person's happiness, far more so than getting a good exam result. As a non-religious person, I'm almost jealous that these guys have something they have dedicated their life to, that they can practise in such a simple yet meaningful way. Who am I to take that away from them? As a white, non-Muslim person, who am I to advise Muslims on what parts of their religion (or even their culture) they should follow and which they shouldn't? And so what if non-Muslims have an unfair advantage in this year's exams? I'm sure Islam teaches that life doesn't always seem fair, but God will make sure you're all right in the end (Insha Allah, as my students would say).

So I'm not going to encourage my students not to fast, even if their results suffer.

I'm just going to hope that all of my female students happen to be on their periods for their C4 exam.

Emma x x x


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I'm just going to hope that all of my female students happen to be on their periods for their C4 exam. Damn what a way to finish off your topic