A speech about … grades and education
What is the ideal education
place? … A place where you learn something you may say. But do our students
in today’s society really learn something, or is it just about good grades? …
It is a really tough question. Grades can be motivating for some students, but
for others they can be devastating to their desire to learn and participate in
the teaching. Therefore, we need to focus less on the grade themselves and more
on teaching and more feedback to the students. We need to realize that high
school students are not identical.
The pursuit for grades creates
a harsh learning environment, where it’s no longer about getting down to the
professional depth, but rather just skim over the surface to draw as many top
grades (12) as possible. And with the massive press of grades that we are
under, it’s hardly surprising. Not a week goes by, without several assignments
and studies are sent back, right in our faces, with a grade printed. Every day struggles to impress
the teacher takes place, because the continuous assessment marks are constantly
threatening. When we are constantly measured and weighed in this way, we create
a constant exam situation in the high-school: The teacher is no longer just a
supervisor and a scientific genius, but also an examiner to judge you. And we
all know that it’s not when you are sitting at the green table that you are asking
how for example integral calculus works. The consequences are many. Most
obviously, it means that the students do not dare to raise their hands and ask
when they are in doubt. Rather bluff and pretend to know the answer, than to
reveal your academic weaknesses – because after all it’s better to be stupid
than to look stupid, sounds the logic. But it does not stop there. The scramble
for higher marks also reduces the person next to you who previously was a
professional sparring partner to a competitor. Notes are being hold close to
the body. No one dares to share a part of his analytical pearl of wisdom in the
group work, for what if someone else was allowed to present the point for the
teacher and reap the whole reward and honour – and along with that the top
The constant competition to market
ourselves does simply make us inferior students. In our struggle to get first
past the finish line, it’s as if we have forgotten what we are running towards.
Once, when we started at school, it was probably the academic knowledge and
insight that hid behind the great marks we hunted. Today, it is as if the competence
behind the numbers doesn’t matter; The numbers on the diploma doesn’t reveal
anything about how we received the 12s. Of course, it is easy to say that it is
our own fault – the students. But I do not think you can blame us. Teachers can
easily tell us that we neither can or should reduce our knowledge to a number.
The fact is however, that the number on the bottom of the diploma, the day we
get the student’s cap on our head, determines our future. It has the power to open
the door to the dream education – but also to brutally slam it in your head.
Of course, the solution is not
to completely abolish the grades. But in everyday life, the focus has to be
somewhere else: At the academic depth and at creating a safe learning environment
where there is room for doubt and stupid questions and to become better without
constantly having to worry about grades that are very hard to achieve.
At the high-schools, where
there is successfully introduced gradesless classes, the satisfaction has
increased – and along with that the average at the exam has gone up. Only
because of the fact that continuous assessment marks were dropped, and the
students instead given constructive feedback and conversations and waited for
the grade to the actual exam.
I think we all can learn from
this, since the grades steals all the attention in todays society.