Lately, I’ve noticed how a considerable amount of students from my classes, who were getting relatively low grades, could speak about the topics covered in class really easily, and express their ideas clearly. This obviously made me question, why is it that many students have such grades if their knowledge meets the standards of the subjects? Also, why do some students that have really high scores don’t seem to be so knowledgeable?
Our educational system gives students a number that represents the quality of their academic performance; however, how are we so sure that number is accurate? Perhaps it is not, simply because the grading system measures how well a student can adapt to the established requirements more than how well they can learn and use their knowledge.
Ever since the introduction of a primitive 4-point scale in the 19th century at Yale University, the necessity to rank pupils in order to distinguish who accomplishes what in their academic life has pushed the educational system to develop a way to do so, dividing your performance on criteria like how much homework you do, how well you do on a test, the way you behave with your teacher, and other factors.
These things are clearly important; an educated person has to be responsible, and respectful. However, what if students don’t really know the information they are supposed to? No problem for them! They have access to immense sources of information, with a few clicks and searches they can have assignments practically done, even if they aren’t getting any of it. This, obviously, doesn’t benefit their learning, but it benefits their grades, and in today’s educational system, that seems to be more important. On the other hand, there are many students who do know about what the professor teaches, yet they are still getting not such good numbers on their report cards. “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid,” said Einstein. I couldn’t agree with him more, because this phrase expresses how perhaps the student is not able to demonstrate his or her ability through the approach the teacher is asking for, but they could definitely show off their skills with a different approach.
Most students don’t consider that graded feedback is a correct reflection of the academic level they are on, yet they stick to it since they still need the good scores. The establishment of a grading system strongly affects the behavior of a student in their educational life. If your numbers matter so much, why take risk on some things that could affect them?
Students under this system are often taking a shortcut to get a nice grade. They don’t embrace failure as a part of education in order to become better. Don’t we want students to take risks and think big, striving for different and more complex things? Then, we probably shouldn’t put them under a system that makes them strategically seek for an easy A, because if they don’t, it will affect their future. An individual that does not embrace failure and learns how to cope with it in order to learn for future occasions won’t succeed easily in difficult situations.
Another way this grading system hurts the education of students is making them prone to just focus on learning the information partly. Considering the importance of grades nowadays, it is obvious that students mainly focus on the parts of the curriculum that are going to be on things such as tests. “It’s okay if I don’t learn that, it isn’t going to be on the exam,” is a perfect example of this, and being a high school student I can assure the frequency of comments along those lines from an immense quantity of students.
Making the grades the end point and the main goal of learning something doesn’t let students realize that they can explore much more into a topic. Students simply put their attention on the details necessary to pass certain classes, disregarding the understanding of the subject itself. This is clearly a limitation for the learning process.
Grading the students is functional in the matter of making it easy to classify, and manage a relatively justified rank for them. However, this rank may not really represent their academic and creative potential. In addition to this, students get affected educationally and are limited on their creative growth. Yes, it is easy to manage a grading system like the one currently implemented in schools considering the big masses of students, but I think that we should all agree that how well educated students get to be is just as important as this ease, if not more.