How important are the excellent marks at school?

09 Mar 2022

The most common answer will likely be “it is the most important thing”. Is it though? Are the excellent marks a quality method for measuring our children’s development? Let’s begin with a bit of pre-phase. 

Standardized education emerges during the industrial revolution, due to the need of basic education for factory workers. Centuries have passed ever since and the education remains the sector with the slowest development, with major innovations happening in cycles of roughy 70 years. This so called “education lag” means that the nowadays students will be grandparents when major paradigm shift happens in the educational system.

Today, the students continue being examined with standardized tests, which in most of the schooling systems, require simple repetition of information.

The difference between knowledge and skills

Here comes the time to ask ourselves another crucial question: what’s the difference between knowledge and skills? Our children learn a mindboggling amount of information at school. And their success is measured by their ability to repeat the said information. However, in most of the cases, the students do not learn how to use this knowledge in the real world, converting it into applicable skills.

We as parents, and often unconsciously, look for a solution of this problem by enrolling our children in a plethora of extracurricular activities, such as STEM, mental maths, etc. In this way we aim towards a better development of our children and try to catch up with the skills which the students did not acquire due to their schooling system.

Take the science classes for example. If a student knows, that the hot air is lighter than the cold one, their teacher will proudly give them an A. Won’t it be better if the student in question knows how to put that physics law into practice? To be taught to be a pioneer, a thinker and a visionary, with eyes fixed on the unlimited future opportunities?

And how about the economics classes in the upper grades? Isn’t it better for our children to be able to create a business plan and start their own business instead of simply repeating that the demand defines the supply?

The paradox of marks at school

In case you answered with a “yes” to the questions above, you are already on the right track for understanding the gaps of the marking system at school. It would be wonderful for our children to get A-s only. However those marks are not a guarantee for success in life. Remembering and repeating information by itself cannot prepare our children for the palette of challenges that life has in store for them after they leave school. The excellent marks cannot automatically create successful businesses, win Nobel prizes or turn our children into C-suite managers.

For all of this to happen a radical paradigm shift in the nowadays education and marking methods must take place. Our children should be marked on the basis of their way of thinking. On the base of their ability to apply skills in practice. On the base of their holistic development as human beings.

There are only a handful of educational systems around the world, which offer namely this: holistic approach aiming towards developing the personality of the child, instead of requiring mere repetition of facts. Such and educational system is the British one. It offers thinking based learning and conceptual learning methods, preparing the students for the challenges of the real life: problem solving, critical thinking, skills application, etc. And the evaluation follows these criteria.

The importance of the marks at school

After the above contemplations, let’s get back to the main question: how important are the excellent marks at school? While the system accepts the repetition of facts as a measure for success, the school marks of our children are and will remain meaningless. After all, we all desire our heirs to evolve into thinking and successful young people, instead of merely being able to repeat something that they head during class.

We live in a dynamic and flexible world, where our daily lives constantly change. This means that the education of our children should be adequate to this reality. To constantly evolve and improve, so it can answer to the needs not of today but of tomorrow. And the students’ evaluation cannot even reflect the present, let alone the future. In most of the cases the students’ evaluation reflects the past.

People like Richard Branson and Nikola Tesla were despicable students, if you refer to their marks from school. This came as a result from the way they were taught and the requirements of their respective educational systems. And having in mind what they and people like them have achieved, we should also paraphrase our initial question:

What is more important for my child: to become successful person or to be a straight-A student?

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