I’ll give a C+ to our School’s Grading system

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My eldest daughter have always had difficulties with her studies. She tries very hard and it gets frustrating at times, but somehow “her grades don’t commensurate with her efforts” according to a recent report we got from her school after her Primary 6 form teacher intervened. She is dyslexic.

I started reading up on what being dyslexic really means…

Dyslexia is a type of specific learning difficulty… that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling…
~ das.org.sg

Now it all make sense. Her difficulty in comprehension of questions in her exam papers, her speed in reading, her accuracy in spelling, her grades.

Grades. The universal marker of education. The way to see if the child is good academically at their age. The way to cull applicants into a popular school if there are limited places. A necessary measurement in life in our time and age, in our society, in our capitalistic meritocratic society.

In the same report her verbal cognitive capabilities ranked in the 79% percentile and this meant a lot to me. It clearly showed that there is still a measurement in there that truly showed me the daughter that I know.

I do interview a lot of potential hires at work and there are definitely things I’m looking for. Passion, Integrity, Communication Skills, Thinking on the feet, etc. When meeting new friends, I also automatically look out for things like Sincerity, Empathy, Humour, Coolness and especially Chivalry in guys, etc. There is a huge disparity in what I’m looking out for in a person professionally and socially when compared with what schools are looking for in a student.

These are two different things I agree. I’m not saying that the education system is totally broken, as Singapore teens ranked No. 1 in problem solving in a recently international benchmarking organised by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), kudos to MOE. But at the same time, I’m also not saying that it’s perfect as well as many kids like mine are still not flourishing in the current institutionalised education system which is really giving their self-esteem and self-worth a daily beating.

The Ministry of Education of Singapore have spelt out the Desired Outcomes of Education across primary, secondary and post secondary education and I quote…

He has a good sense of self-awareness, a sound moral compass, and the necessary skills and knowledge to take on challenges of the future. He is responsible to his family, community and nation. He appreciates the beauty of the world around him, possesses a healthy mind and body, and has a zest for life.

The Key Stage Outcomes of Education according to MOE…

At the end of Primary school, pupils should:

  • be able to distinguish right from wrong
  • know their strengths and areas for growth
  • be able to cooperate, share and care for others
  • have a lively curiosity about things
  • be able to think for and express themselves confidently
  • take pride in their work
  • have healthy habits and an awareness of the arts
  • know and love Singapore

At the end of Secondary school, students should:

  • have moral integrity
  • believe in their abilities and be able to adapt to change
  • be able to work in teams and show empathy for others
  • be creative and have an inquiring mind
  • be able to appreciate diverse views and communicate effectively
  • take responsibility for their own learning
  • enjoy physical activities and appreciate the arts
  • believe in Singapore and understand what matters to Singapore

At the end of Post-Secondary education, students should:

  • have moral courage to stand up for what is right
  • be resilient in the face of adversity
  • be able to collaborate across cultures and be socially responsible
  • be innovative and enterprising
  • be able to think critically and communicate persuasively
  • be purposeful in pursuit of excellence
  • pursue a healthy lifestyle and have an appreciation for aesthetics
  • be proud to be Singaporeans and understand Singapore in relation to the world

These look like great outcomes to desire for our kids, but looking at what they go thru at school daily and how they are graded have made me disillusioned.

How is it possible for Schools to seriously look at and start to emphasise on the desired outcomes listed by MOE? Cooperation, Sharing, Caring, Curiosity, Expression, Confidence, Pride, Awareness of the Arts, loving Singapore like mentioned above? Schools are seriously looking at syllabus as those are the main matrices being look at when deciding if a child is doing well in School.

There are also other factors, things like Discernment, Empathy, Kindness, Digital Communication, Resilience all much needed in our current time and age to be Happy and Successful.

I don’t know the answer, but let me make some suggestions.

1. Grade and include desired outcomes in overall assessment

Make those desired outcomes gradable and make them attribute to the final score. 20% English, 20% Math, 20% Science, 20% Mother Tongue, 20% Cooperation + Sharing + Caring + Curiosity + Expression + Confidence + Pride + Awareness of the Arts + loving Singapore.

I mean that is what MOE is setting out to do right? So let’s do it.

2. Emphasis on Happiness

Success used to be defined as having more money, having a bigger house, having a nice car, having a great lifestyle and that all came down to having more money which is an outcome of having a good education. This is what most parents say and some are still saying.

Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.
~ Albert Schweitzer

The new generation don’t necessary want to buy stuff, they do want to be cool, have new experiences and generally just want to be happy. Don’t we all. So why not let’s do it.

Check out this documentary Children Full of Life and you will know what I mean.

Master an Apprentice

Rather then just going to school, how about some real work life experience as well? Attached a kid to a job from young. Look at Logan LaPlante who shared at Ted about how he is sometimes working at a ski shop and how much good that is doing to him.

I’ll teach my kids photography, filming, how to edit videos, but would be great if I can send them to work somewhere.

Conclusion

I don’t study pedagogy, I’m not a school teacher, I don’t totally know the challenges the schools face. I do however have 3 daughters and I love them loads and want them to be happy.

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I would love parents to stop bashing the education system as its made out of many passionate teachers. The institutionalises education system is so massive that it will take years to change and not to mention getting parents to change their mindsets as well and stop “investing” in expensive tuition, but fun stuff for their kids to be better and happy people.

Our education system deserves a C+ in my books, but hey there is definitely room for improvement and I think we just need to work hard at it.

If you have more ideas, lets all list them out. Let’s give our kids the best we can give them.

5 Replies to “I’ll give a C+ to our School’s Grading system”

  1. You only figured out the dyslexia now? O.O I’m dyslexic and yeah, it sucx… but only in school. Your brain sees things differently – where people see A, you see a B. When teacher asks question about C, you think they are asking about D. A dyslexic needs different learning strategy – normal student, if they are not good at something, they tend to try to avoid it/work around it, but a dyslexic MUST face their weakness and practice the topics that they struggle with the most. But if you only have figured this out now, your daughter might be missing a lot of knowledge from the foundation years…

    I can only add, that being dyslexic is ONLY a problem in school. Once you graduate being able to see A, where everyone sees B, makes you a creative problem solver.

  2. I have so much to say I don’t know where to start. The mainstream system has just too many flaws. All the alternative form of assessments taught or shared with teachers aren’t focused nor used in many schools. Because too many teachers are chasing time to clear the crazily massive syllabus set out in schools that apply to all levels of learning.

    The good classes finish it fast enough for even more enhanced learning just so they can get even better grades in pen and paper exams, the average class manage to just complete the syllabus in time for good enough grades in the same set of exam papers, and the slower classes struggles and before anyone can master what topic 1 is about, they had to move on just so they can try their best to complete as much as they can with the SAME set of exam papers. Differentiated learnings are applied to help students with different needs. But there are no differentiated assessments to truely assess the differentiated groups.

  3. Chanced upon your blog through a friend’s FB page. I teach assessment in NIE and as you can imagine, grading is one of the most complex issue that we have to teach. My quick thought as I read the posting here is that parents and wider public seem to want more transparency, differentiation and wider focus on non academic achievements. But consider grading say “curiosity” in a differentiated way in just one class. How do we begin to even say that we can observe a student better at “curiosity” than the other? And once we open up this Pandora box, we can imagine parents clamouring to know what is the best and efficient way to get the highest grade for being “curious”. That defeats the whole purpose of wanting students to go about enjoying and wanting to know about the world on their own. My take is not good things in life have to be weighed and graded (and in fact we do not want to go that way at all). And there are somethings in life, we have to recognise that are just beyond the reach of learning within the school/classroom context exclusively. Values and lifelong skills are cornerstone of education, but does education end at the doorway of the classroom? How are parents and wider public helping to inculcate and assess these? Assessment is more ubiquitous than just grading within the classroom context.

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