The cost of grades

Published: September 25, 2010
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Is passing a test in school more important than learning?

By the end of my first semester in university, I became aware that my approach towards education is becoming what the university wants it to be – grades oriented and competitive, wanting to be better than the others, but not because learning is the aim. Without my realising it, the concept of education had changed in my mind. Now it was just a matter of mere numbers (marks) and letters (grades).
Relative grading in educational institutions teaches students one simple rule: your grade depends on how others have done in your class. So if the rest of the class has done average, and you are a just a little above average, your reward will be way more than what you actually deserve.
Basically you bank on someone else’s poor performance. Hence, after every quiz or exam I started praying for others (which could include my friends as well) to do terribly. Where, originally, the purpose of education was to learn, absorb and engage in critical thinking, nowadays the whole idea seems to be dramatically changed.
Thus we see things like students stealing their colleagues’ notebooks and tearing pages from the library books so that others are deprived of the information. Many would deliberately not tell their own friends about upcoming quizzes, exams etc. Others would pray day and night for the rest of the class to do badly.
The goal was simply to trump the other. Extreme as this may sound, these instances of harming others are unfortunately not figments of my imagination, they are the reality in many schools across the country. A reality that has been forcefully created by a a mindset that we need to do away with.
Though, educational institutions boast that competition is healthy and it prepares the students for the ‘real world’ which they step into immediately after graduating, I believe this line of thinking does more harm than good. The method of grading and the values taught at institutions produce a grade-obsessed, stressful culture at an age when people are vulnerable.

sarah.khan

Sarah Khan

A sub-editor on the sport pages of The Express Tribune

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.