Why grades aren’t everything
Problem-solving, team work, and self-management are set to be the important skills of the future
I am not a fan of grades. Or GPAs. Or numbers at the bottom of a page that are supposed to tell you just how much your child has learnt through an experience. Unfortunately, we seem to be hypnotised by the idea of measuring everything. Unfortunately, school grading systems oversimplify what learning means. And ignore some of the most important lessons we need to learn as humans.
Allow me an analogy here. If learning is like growing a plant, a test is digging up a seed to see how much it has grown. You can’t leave it in there overnight, and expect that a tree will be waiting for you next morning. What’s even more apparent to me, as someone who meets young people every day, is a certain misconception that grades dictate your success in life.
When I look for someone to be part of my team, I watch their eyes to see if they light up when they talk about their work. I watch to see how they treat the waiter at the restaurant, or how they treat those around them. Do they listen? Do they build connections and nurture relationships? Do they seem honest and trustworthy, kind and empathetic? Are they resourceful and quick in their problem-solving abilities or will they be the ones endlessly talking about all that’s wrong with a situation? These are the questions I think are more important than “How did you do in that 11th grade math exam”?
I asked my audience on Instagram what they would consider a more important factor than grades in choosing someone to be a part of your team. And the answers ranged from empathy to trust. From grit to hard work, from the ability to make connections and conversations to communication skills.
Yet, day after day, we allow young people to lock themselves in their rooms, endlessly pouring facts into their brains while compromising on the time they should be spending working with others, making conversations with strangers, digging around in the garden, or building with their hands.
An interesting report was released by the World Economic Forum on jobs of the future that spoke of the most important skills that will be required of us in 2025. If the aim of education is to land a job, which it should not be, then let’s pay attention to what this report says. Problem solving, working with other people, and self management are three of the four most important skills of 2025.
Instead of fretting about whether you got an A or B+, take a minute to talk to someone who has a story different from your own. Walk down a street, spend some time with yourself, or build a DIY table. It’s probably more useful than calculus in the workplace.