We are not our results

I have a weird take on exams. I’m never satisfied with the results.

I don’t mean what grades we get. I mean what those grades tell me. I’ve never been convinced they tell me anything particular; never believed they necessarily tell me about intelligence.

They tell me that someone has particular skills – skills for passing exams. But I equally applaud the skills of rock climbing, skate boarding or raising kids none of which require grades to do it well. You need far more than grades to convince me of intelligence.

People like to use grades to label themselves as superior. And society likes to compartmentalise those without as inferior. That’s completely warped.

People are not better people for having grades. And that’s what really counts. You can be a good person without grades – grades do not define us.

What defines us is how we think and act. How we care. How we take responsibility. How we engender respect in the activities we do. Respect for each other. Respect for the world that supports us. Respect for purposeful work (paid or unpaid).

Those are the things that define us. But you can’t measure those with grades and society seems obsessed with measuring. With statistics. With box ticking and hoop jumping.

Yet the things that make a person good cannot be fitted into boxes. Did Einstein fit boxes? Did Ghandi? Did Beatrix Potter? Did Jamie Oliver? They all brought different kinds of goodness to this world but they didn’t tick boxes. They brought goodness by consistent ongoing activity, by the things they did, not the grades they were measured by.

In a few years time your grades will mean nothing. I know folks uphold that without them they wouldn’t have got where they are (higher education perhaps, higher salary). But actually, we’ll never know that will we? And people are achieving and becoming successful without them. (Jamie Oliver for one).

Grades mean so little against an interpretation of life through goodness. We shouldn’t let them define us or our future. We all, always, have the opportunity to do something great – however small – for which we will be remembered long after anyone is even bothered about our grades.

Let’s not educate for grades any more. Let’s educate for goodness. We are more to the world as goodness than as results.

16 thoughts on “We are not our results

  1. Hi Ross loved this post but my eldest daughter had an awful experience yesterday that I thought would interest you. I home ed my youngest Lucy (just to recap – I have emailed you before so this might seem like de ja vu) but my eldest Jessie went to school whilst we lived in the Middle East. She sat her exams and didn’t get the results she’d hoped for so resat exams in this country via an educational facility called ISIS. These exams were functional exams and meant (according to the teachers at ISIS) were equivalent to GCSE grades. So Jessie re took maths and English. She acquired the equivalent to grade C in both. So we applied then to Lincs College to take A level English. She went for her interview yesterday and was pretty much shot down in flames and told in no uncertain terms that the exams she has just taken mean nothing and without 5 GCSE’s she wouldn’t get anywhere and certainly college would not take her?? so I now have a very sad disheartened teenager who has lost her way and I have no idea how to get her back on track (suggestions would be welcomed). This has made me very sad, angry and frustrated and actually more determined than ever to carry on home schooling Lucy as I feel the school system certainly let Jessie down to be honest I can do a much better job than government and the drones they call teachers who need to think outside the box if they want to stop creating the farce they call education. so to sum up – I have a teenager still in bed with a sad heavy heart with thoughts of what a waste of time going to school and stressing about exams? kind regards Michelle Date: Fri, 16 Aug 2013 15:21:31 +0000 To: mmstewart@hotmail.com

    • What an appallingly sad story, both for your daughter and actually for education in general. Where is the support for this child through the staff at the college? – it’s disgraceful. I so feel for you both….but hang in there…things will change.
      I’d suggest that she needs some time! Time will take the awful sting and emotional heat out of the experience for a start. And the other thing is; it doesn’t matter when your daughter gains further quals, if that’s what she’s after, but she might need some time to get over her understandable disillusionment. You’ve both had a horrible and undeserved shock but do tell your daughter that the fault lies not with her – or education in general, but the narrow minded institution who cannot see beyond their stupid rules to her very clear ability. When she’s feeling better think about your longer term plans and the other ways there are to achieve them – there will be other ways.
      I’m really surprise by Lincs college. Our experience at Boston was quite the reverse and they were very keen and willing to support our two HE daughters, and took them onto the BTEC courses without the GCSEs required. I also know a young man who went to another college to do As without the required GCSEs (he took them at the same time) so I think this college was extremely unhelpful. Shocking really.
      I’m sure there will be ways for your daughter to progress forward; get her fighting spirit up, and tell her not to stress about exams. There are ways she can gain what she wants and she doesn’t have to stick to the same time span as everyone else. She will get there, but for now you both need some nurturing past having been so badly let down through no fault of your own.
      Take care. Let me know what happens. But give yourselves some space for now – solutions don’t have to be achieved immediately. x

      • Hi, This story makes me mad. My daughter took 3 GCSE’s with ICS. Mid Kent College specified that in order to be accepted she needed ABB. The maths tutor told us that Human physiology and Health was not the equivalent of Biology at her intake interview, at which the science tutor was questioned and he agreed that in fact it is MORE specialised. As an external candidate she received her results of A ,C,C. and was completely distraught in the room when she saw her results, inconsolable. I phoned the college and she was allowed in on the strength of her A. Months later , her coursework papers arrived back minus her Human physiology and health at which I noted that her cousework had been lost by the college or in the system, explaining the C. She was made to take another GCSE in biology, for free this time at an evening class, where the tutor just read from textbooks. She got an A. She was predicted D’s and E’s for her A levels. Her first exam results were posted up as wrong by the college and she nearly quit alongside her psychology tutor who for a week had a whole group of teens believing that THEY failed! For a week she was very upset and thought that she was a failure. Until she got her results and she had in fact achieved A’s.
        She finished her A levels with three A*’s and as the college would not allow her to take four (because she was HE ) an A in AS Biology.
        I am letting you know this as now Mid Kent College hold previously home educated people in very high esteem. My daughter achieved the highest mark overall in Edxcel A level Psychology in 2010 at which the college got and award. She is invited back for functions.
        I am telling you all this so that you may ponder about pointing this college to Mid Kent . I KNOW through a prospective housemate who was also home educated that they rave about people like your daughter. I would suggest that as she is under 19 she is allowed to take her GCSEs again for free this time and armed with evidence from Mid Kent , maybe request and interview with someone in the local education authority as to her being accepted for study.
        I wish you the very best of luck. Please do not think this is over. xx

      • Thanks for leaving your comment. I can see how terribly frustrating and distressing this will have been for you and sorry if anything you’ve read here has made it worse.

  2. Great post, totally agree. My son will be getting his GCSE results next week but whatever grades he gets he has already made so many more important and life changing achievements. When he was a baby I was told me would never be able to go to school or even walk or talk due to a medical condition but he has done that and so much more.

    • It was at the time Ross, being a big shock from being let down when entering back into the system but with a happy ending. My only desire of my post was to spread a bit of hope to those youngsters who have similarly been let down by not having the correct credentials .i.e 5 GCSE’s before being able to study for A levels. Of course A levels do not make the person, and nor should they. . Nothing should have to be a fight but sadly in this “tick box” society it can be so frustrating to be unable to find stories that give hope especially when we are in despair. x

  3. As a Mother to a previously home educated child who HAS been measured by grades I feel that it might be prudent to offer a different perspective on this. My daughter did exceptionally well in her exams, she is doing exceptionally well at University. If it was not for her work ethic of pushing herself to go the extra mile by developing her own learning style, developed through being motivated and independent then she would not be as successful . It was not just her grades that led her to be published as an Undergrad and to be running an Internationally funded clinical trial, again as an Undergrad BUT it drew her to the attention of those people who could give her the opportunities, over and above a comparable student. It is not just about being trained to pass exams, the learning style HAS to be developed by a student that does it for themselves and NOT to please others.As for Jamie Oliver, he was noticed, he is not an exceptional Chef, there are many others comparable in every High Street (probably) , he was driven to succeed, not pushed by any educational establishment. It is the personal ambition over and above grades which is so overlooked. How else would academic intelligence be measured in today’s world, high grades also indicate being studious and able to take on tasks which require a great deal of thought.

  4. Great post. My eldest is currently awaiting some results and, whilst he is expected to do well, I’ve always told him that, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t actually matter. I think he’s doing pretty well in the “goodness” stakes so I will be proud of him no matter what.

  5. Yes! Completely agree and wish society would wake up to this! Maybe now that industry leaders are complaining about the new job recruits being expert test-takers but not able to innovate or take the initiative, people will take notice? Money talks, eh?

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