Using grades as a basis for reward or punishment is a common practice in educational systems around the world, one that transcends generations. When a child gets an A on their exam, for example, the tendency is to award them with their favorite food or a new toy. On the other hand, when the child gets less than favorable results, common reactions to this setback include negotiation of privileges like video game time or setting aside a few hours on a weekend for tutoring sessions.
That said, it’s understandable that parents based in Singapore would want to make the most of the country’s educational resources and go to great lengths to ensure that their children meet high academic standards. After all, Singapore maintains one of the best systems of education in the world, and keeping pace with its standards demands a lot of hard work and discipline from students.
But even though urging your kids to achieve these standards instills discipline in them and solidifies their access to career-building opportunities, hyperfocusing on grades will dilute the value of learning. Your child may also be affected in a negative way by the constant pressure.
To illustrate further, here are some of the reasons it’s time to shift the focus away from numerical indicators of academic achievement and direct it towards the genuine act of learning.
Grades Can Be Too Rigid in Measuring Intelligence and Aptitude
Although there are people who are able to excel in any academic subject, it’s perfectly natural for children to shine in some areas and experience challenges in others. For instance, your child may be a pro at using mathematical formulas, but they may struggle at learning languages. Some children are also more comfortable working alone than collaborating with a large group. Taking into account Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, it’s possible that your child may learn better through different means—be it through visual aids, social interactions, or something else. Focusing too much on your child’s low performance on activities they aren’t suited for will only discourage them from doing their best.
However, it’s still possible to try and mold well-rounded students through progressive learning frameworks. The International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme, for example, focuses less on traditional memorization and more on self-inquiry and critical thinking. In IB program activities, the emphasis is more on shaping the student’s emotional, intellectual, social, and personal skills to help them solve problems and retain knowledge in ways that suit them best.
On a related note, Singapore’s students seem to fare well in IB-based learning. Singapore consistently ranks high in IB exam performance, often surpassing the global average. If you want your child to benefit from holistic learning that opens doors to higher education abroad, you’ll want to check out IB schools in Singapore that will help your child excel, regardless of where their talents may lie.
Genuine Learning Develops a Child’s Capacity for Intrinsic Motivation
As mentioned above, using a rewards-based framework to motivate children to do well in school can be effective to an extent. However, this also instills in them the idea that studying is merely transactional. The increased emphasis on children’s achievements, rather than their fulfillment, can be harmful since it can lead to the misaligned goal of getting good grades just to please the child’s family. Aside from gaining parental approval, students may also feel pressured to get good grades for the sole purpose of meeting the high standards of universities and employers.
While there’s nothing wrong with aiming for good grades to open more opportunities for your child, striving for genuine learning can help them develop skills like being able to think on their feet and being able to solve problems in a creative way. Skills like these will be extremely valuable outside the academe.
Additionally, this is a more effective way of retaining lessons than endless memorization. To help your child become a “smart” learner, consider putting less pressure on them to achieve high scores. Instead, make it a point to initiate regular discussions with them regarding the lessons they’ve learned and help them through any potential low points.
Self-Induced Learning Instills Self-Worth
It’s common for students to revolve their self-worth around their grades and academic achievement. In fact, according to a 2002 study on self-esteem, 80 percent of college freshmen use academic competence as a basis for determining their self-worth. This finding is concerning because stress, anger, anxiety, low self-esteem, and other psychological issues often stem from a poor sense of self-worth.
As your child’s caretaker, it’s part of your duty to determine the best way to help your child maximize their strengths and work through their weaknesses. You also need to remind your child that despite their flaws, they have their own set of unique skills that they can use to learn new and interesting things on their own.
Good Grades Help, but Real Learning is Forever
To summarize, good grades are still instrumental in shaping your child’s future. However, it should also be noted that grades are not everything. High marks on a report card are impressive, but authentic knowledge determines how well your child can sustain lifelong learning. As such, shifting the focus toward genuine learning can ensure that your child can take that knowledge to a deeper, more practical level.
Ultimately, grades and self-initiated learning serve as complements that both have implications on your child’s life. While it’s fine for your child to aim for good marks, the most important thing is that they can direct their love of learning towards the things that matter to them the most.