Modern school life is increasingly focused on tests and grades, at the expense of developing real competency and maximizing children's potential. What's worse, every child is pressured by well-meaning parents to become a class topper. Unfortunately, they don't realize being a class topper would likely do more harm than good.
Numerous studies have consistently shown the extensive harmful effects on children's health and well-being, as teachers and parents constantly push them to get better grades...
1. Too Much Learning Material Creates Symptoms of Brain Disorders
In order to pass the ever-increasing number of tests, students are forced to absorb more and more educational content. This can lead to symptoms of brain disorders.
Stephen Camarata, a professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, clearly elaborates in his book how excessive learning material forced onto young minds causes symptoms of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Such symptoms appear even if the child might not have the disorder. This particularly affects boys more than girls.
When the focus moves from grades to the students' individual capacities, children would only receive the workload they can handle. They would develop skills and competencies without incurring the adverse effects of excessive learning.
2. Coercive Learning Systems Have Multiplied Cases of Depression and Anxiety in Kids
As much as parents think they are helping prepare their kids for future lucrative careers and good lives, coercing them to deliver better grades would greatly increase their risk of suffering depression.
A 2009 study on childhood depression revealed that greater incidences of student depression occur in academically competitive schools. Considering all the physical and mental ailments related to anxiety and depression, you certainly wouldn't want this for your children.
In fact, the rates of depression and/ or anxiety among high school and college students were five to eight times lower 50+ years ago. You may assume this has to do with economic or other external factors; however, anxiety and depression levels were far lower during World War II, the Great Depression and the Cold War.
On the contrary, the evidence points to the way young people are trained to view the world at a tender age.
By training students to base their worth on such extrinsic aspects as school grades, they gradually lose regard for their intrinsic capabilities. Soon, they end up anxious and depressed, since they can't control the extrinsic aspects.
If you, instead, help your children be the best they can be, they'll develop into well-rounded adults: socially, mentally, intellectually and physically.
3. Grading Systems Can Even Reduce Competency
Parents often rejoice when their child become a class topper; however, that doesn't really prove how competent the child is. In fact, too many students would opt for an A instead of really learning a subject.
This is certainly cause for worry, considering many aspects of our lives depend on professionals who have gone through a grade-focused education system. Actually, a study revealed that superior general practitioners could be found either the top, middle or bottom grades in medical-school classes (similarly with less competent general practitioners). Apparently, the grades were meaningless, yet they are part of the core educational system.
It gets even worse...
Grading systems deprive students of the opportunity to make their own judgements of personal competency. It ingrains in them the misguided belief that what matters isn't their true competency, but good grades. Hence, instead of seeking to develop well-rounded and practical competency, they do just enough to get a good grade.
Unfortunately, this ends up affecting students' progress in future careers.
It's one of the reasons why various firms seek external hires for high-level administrative positions, disregarding internal technical staff. The grade-focused education system narrowed the focus of such technical staff to only limited competencies, placing less emphasis on essential social skills, a necessity in administrative roles.
Knowing this, you can prepare your children beforehand by not pressuring them to attain top grades, but to build up well-rounded competencies.
4. Extrinsic Motivation in Grading Systems Ruins Your Child's Wellbeing
Being a class topper is an external motivation which can ruin your child's wellbeing, unlike being your best (an intrinsic motivation).
Grade-focused learning offers extrinsic motivations, which are material rewards beyond a child's control. These shift the students' focus from their intrinsic motivations: the competencies and skills they have within their control.
Evidently, that contributes to a more materialistic world view.
A 2007 poll revealed that college freshmen consider developing a meaningful life philosophy as less important than being well off financially (this was the direct opposite in the 1960s and 70s). Most parents mistakenly believe they are instilling a work ethic in their kids when they send them to conventional schools, yet the system itself trains kids to become materialistic.
Moreover, your child's emotional heath would also be affected.
As the education system trains kids to depend on external rather than intrinsic motivations, they become more susceptible to frustration. This is simple because they can't control such external motivations, which inevitably affects their emotional wellbeing.
Training children to value their intrinsic competencies shields them from such frustrations. They simply develop their inbuilt abilities, which not only give them satisfaction, but also help them handle life challenges.
Why All This Matters
Placing the focus on your child's abilities, instead of mere grades, is the surest way to set them up for success in life.
It's even more important in the current rapidly changing technology world. In order to remain relevant, professionals must possess practical and marketable skills. In fact, hiring managers demand a greater array of complementing skills, to cope with emerging work environments.
Most of all, grading systems are typically insufficient at gauging students' real competencies.
You can never substitute a real-life, on-the-job experience with a written or oral test. When you pressure your kids to focus only on getting good grades, they would be deprived of the opportunity to learn more beyond the tests. They wouldn't have time to build vital social skills through interactions, or to physically apply the lessons learned in class.
Ultimately, your child will enjoy learning when focus shifts from grades to competency.
Helping children to be their best means tapping into their inbuilt desire to explore and learn. Instead of being forced to learn, they would instead exert themselves even harder to achieve their goals.
So, instead of pushing your kids to be class toppers, help them be their best.