The traditional teach-to-the-test practice that is ubiquitous today has had severe ramifications which have encumbered the process of learning. Educational institutions have prioritized the grade system so much that students have become grade oriented in their approach in the pursuit of educational enlightenment. Yes, grades have been the primary form of measuring, communicating, reflecting and indicating the aptitude of a student in a since education was first institutionalised. They provide a rational basis on which to evaluate the collective efforts of a student’s potential and a medium through which student mastery is reflected. But, with the grading system so deeply entrenched in the school curriculum, teachers feel impelled to grade any and all student work. There are reasons why this praxis is pandemic. Excessive parental aspiration, peer pressure and a school’s own self-serving desire to ameliorate its exam performance have rendered the notion of learning obsolete, with grades being the only parameter deemed worthy as indicative of a student’s achievements and performance. While the effect has been expounded, it is of utmost gravity to identify the root causes that contribute to this bleak premise.
While it is unfair to dub parental expectations as virulent, it is telling as to why this reason deserves a mention amongst the other more noxious agents. Excessive parental aspirations can be detrimental to a child’s development, because then the child only looks for ways to swell its grades. Neglecting the most important part of education in this process which is to retain the knowledge that has been imparted by the pedagogue, the mental faculty of a child is wasted in trying to make its report card devoid of red ink instead of comprehending the theme of the subject at hand. Parental aspirations when set within realistic grounds do serve as the catalyst for improved academic performance and the most academically able kids had their parents set them the right level of aspiration during their formative years. It is when the aspirations overly exceed realistic expectations that student achievements taper off.
The unwarranted value that has been attached to grades impedes the teaching and learning process. The intrinsic desire to learn has waned over time and while a grade is the describing medium of a candidate’s academic calibre, ironically they do anything but that. An inexpedient and malign attitude that has been inculcated in students as a consequence of this convention is that students look at education objectively. When the objective of the exercise is the grade at the end of it, students don’t feel inclined to learn instead feeling the need to pursue ostentatious grades that are designed to impress. Many kids therefore feel the need to embrace expedients and to cut corners in an effort to achieve better grades.
Students are motivated by the desire to gain social approval or avoid social sanctions. By making grades the cynosure of all eyes, students have obliquely been taught to prioritise them above all else. The pressure to stand out amongst or rise above peers, impacts the desire to learn for learning’s sake. As in every other sphere, there are more naturally able candidates who are the exemplar for academic, virtuous, athletic or any other interdisciplinary excellence. The pressure to match up to or to come up as an equal to these paragons often urges the others to adopt measures that wouldn’t be advisable in the longer run. When chasing superficial academic values, students tend to neglect the most important part of edification, studying instead of learning, choosing to needlessly chase a grade which isn’t an accurate description of their abilities.
The idea isn’t to deprecate grades and what they stand for. It is to highlight the attitude that we develop as a consequence which is inimical to our interests. Grades are the fundamental medium of conveying student mastery and a necessary part of education. What it is not, is an accurate description of a person’s worth and calibre. Getting caught up in the hysteria that surrounds grades and its subsequent effects is natural as a human being. But the most important thing is to not let it dishearten you. Grades cannot accurately determine how resourceful a person can be. In this day and age where people have multi-varied talents, grades are only a describing medium of a few aspects of your ingenuity. There are successful people who didn’t get good grades and made it big and conversely there are people who worked hard for their academics and made it far enough. What you do with your education and your passion is the common thread, not grades.