Is the Education System Too Focused on Grades Rather Than Self Development and Discovery?

05/10/2015 12:04 BST | Updated 04/10/2016 10:12 BST

There is now a greater demand for 'change', and adapting the educational system to better suit students. Having low grades does not necessarily mean one cannot be successful.

For example, Sir Richard Branson stated: "My school report told a sad story. I failed almost every class I took. Should I have paid it too much attention, I would have been disheartened to ever try to achieve or succeed. But I didn't - I rejected it as a score card for my life and didn't let it govern my future. Instead of putting people in boxes, education should embrace individuality and inspire people to think outside the box. In fact, get rid of the box altogether. I've always said, why fit in when you can stand out?"

Branson is recognised throughout the world for his success. His poor academic record didn't hinder his career. However, it must be stated that Richard Branson is unique in the way that he 'beat the odds'. To take a leaf from his book, we must help develop the students individual abilities. There is no logic in students spending hours in a classroom, if they are not engaged in the subject.

School should be fun, dynamic and create an enjoyable environment for students to be educated. I found that my time teaching 'student-lead activities', for example when the student may research a certain subject, and teach the class or conduct a debate or quiz were the most stimulating, and enjoyable for the students. Student-lead activities empowers a student to demonstrate what they know, to be responsible, to teach their peers and even teacher. To borrow the zen expression, 'the student becomes the teacher.' The student develops a sense of pride and accomplishment in their work.

Relating their subject to everyday life is paramount, to keep their interest, and engage them in the subject matter. Sometimes, having a good teacher, can change a student's perspective on a given subject, and help them discover the beauty of a career path, that was previously alien.

Building a student's confidence and self esteem is an important duty of teacher, even if the fruit of this work will not be seen by them. It is nevertheless an important contribution to society as a whole. You can never have enough positive praise within a classroom. Gentle correction is likewise invaluable, but to know when to praise or correct, is what marks out a good teacher. Sometimes a student's failure can simply come down to a lack of belief in oneself. I have seen the affects of positive praise, and I can only ring aloud it's glory. In particular, I saw a student in a low ability set, obtain a grade A in their GCSE. I truly believe this is down to encouragement, engagement and praise.

To develop a better education system we need to focus on our student's gifts and talents. We must continue to look at their attainment rather than their failure. Grades of course are important, but it's the overall improvement of the students ability that is consequential. Students who may not be high achievers at Maths, or any given subject should spend more time at developing the subject, and skills they excel in. More career-led activities should be introduced, which gives students a context for their learning and development. It also gives them the opportunity to rationalise their skill set, and hone the skills required in their chosen profession. Students should be not be defined by poor academic results, but rather subjects they excel in.

I believe integrating work experience in the curriculum, within Post-Primary Education is crucial for student's future careers. It gives them a better insight into their chosen field of study, and more importantly it gives them a sense of direction and purpose. Is this not the purpose of education? The Latin verb 'educare', means to 'lead'. More assignment and student-led activities have been proven to build the student's true potential. Less focus should be put on grades, but rather, recognising, acknowledging, and developing the students innate abilities, with a view to encouraging them to make a meaningful contribution to society. Any less than this, would be to do a disservice to our youth, our most precious asset.