How Meaningful Have Grades Been?

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I am not a fan of grades. I hate it when people judge students because of their grades. I was, somehow, forced as a student to be an achiever (‘though I don’t have any regrets on that). Everyone in the family was an achiever, and so I felt I had to be one, too. It’s awesome to get good grades and receive recognition, but later in life, I realized that there are many things in life that matter more.

The joy of learning, despite grades, is one of them.

Giving your best, not because of grades, but because you want to give back only the best to the One who blessed you with the talent – is another one.

Grades pressure students to perform well; it reduces the fun of learning.

Does it really motivate one to learn? Does it really push one to give his/her best? Well, maybe. But then, sometimes it defeats the purpose of learning; it confines the student to become grade-conscious and limits the fun of learning. It just burdens one to perform well in order not to fail (not to fail in meeting the grade requirement; not to fail in being promoted to the next year level; not to fail to please parents; not to fail to meet expectations of others, not to fail…).

Learning should not be like this. Learning should be fun. Students must be intrinsically motivated to learn. Learning should make us joyfully wise. Learning should make us climb mountains and help us achieve our life goals. Learning should help us soar high. We should make our students and our children realize that the purpose of learning is not merely to get good grades.

Grades give so much pressure on students. My big question is: Can we do away with grades? If we do, how can we properly assess our students? Can we just give detailed descriptive feedback to each student instead of the alpha-numeric grades? I know, it may be too taxing for teachers, difficult to standardize, and difficult to interpret. Alpha-numeric grades are easier to assign, easier to interpret, and easier to compare. I’m sure the educational authorities have good reasons for keeping grades as a big part of the assessment process.

What’s the meaning of grades? It’s good that some modern teachers do explain how they come up with grades. They send you the bases of their grading system, though I guess, there are only a few of them. Based on my personal experience, grades give me a chance to know my children’s academic standing, to know if they are doing well in their academics. Knowing how they really perform in school, understanding their strengths and weaknesses, and knowing their true learning progress are not actually reflected on the report card; those information are provided by getting feedback from my children and their teachers, and by doing my own assignment as a parent, that is, by partnering with teachers in monitoring my kids’ learning. Grades are just not enough, it needs to be complemented by other forms of assessment.

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