In in our society on the numerical

In a recent study for the educational charity Transforming
Lives for Good, over 1000 parents were asked about their biggest concerns. The majority
of those interviewed indicated that the educational progress of their child was
one of their main concerns. However, less than half of the parents surveyed considered
bullying or their child’s unhappiness to be their key worries. This disturbing
statistic suggests a young person’s qualifications are more important than
their wellbeing. The excessive emphasis placed on ‘good’ grades, though often
well-intentioned, can have many negative side effects on the students. These
include resorting to cheating, mental stress, lacking self-worth and having a damaged
work ethic. Whether or not there is too much focus in our society on the numerical
or alphabetical representation of academic skill is a controversial and debated
topic. Personally, I believe that while grades are important for recognising an
individual’s academic abilities, the journey of learning should be encouraged more
in the education system.

Sometimes the expectations
put on teenagers are unreasonable and unfair. For some people, an ‘A’ grade is
out with their grasp. This pressure to gain a certain grade can often lead to
kids finding roundabout ways to obtain the desired qualifications. In an investigation
known as The Josephson Institute of Ethics Report Card from 2002, roughly three
quarters of students confessed to cheating in at least one exam in the past
year. Cheating can often be the result of being ill-prepared for exams, wanting
to get into university courses or trying to meet demanding expectations from teachers,
peers and parents. Students may also cheat so they do not appear ‘dumb’ or to maintain
credibility with their peers. However, there can be harmful consequences to
cheating. People lose their integrity and honesty. They can become lazy, idle
or indolent, trying to find questionable shortcuts. They will not see their
actions as wrong because they think it is purely about the grade not about how
they reached it. Students who are caught cheating can be failed on that particular
test, or in the worst scenarios, expelled from the school. The immoral lengths
that people go to, to achieve the ‘best’ grades shows how there is far too much
attention paid to results rather than the process of learning.

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Nowadays, the emphasis is put on the final grade
rather than the journey that was taken to get there. In a bid to push kids to
their full potential, parents often offer cash rewards. In 2014 alone, a third
of parents offered their children cash incentives in the hope of motivating
them to obtain the ‘best’ grades. However, there is very little evidence to
suggest that this technique works. Many studies into the effect of these monetary
rewards have been carried out across Britain and America. Recently, researchers
from the University of Bristol found that while there was an improvement in
classwork, there was no significant impact on the GCSE results of the teenagers
who had been given cash incentives. In fact, this system is very
counterproductive as pupils lose the drive to excel or learn and will often
perform for the reward rather than for curiosity or interest. This method dampens
the youngsters’ motivation. They lose an appreciation for learning. Due to
qualifications becoming the main focus over education, one student in an
American university said, “A lot of people think it’s like you’re not
really there to learn anything. You’re just learning to learn the system.” This
lack of motivation can even lead to more cases of cheating.

Exam stress is another of
the consequences of focusing too much on test scores. In 2013/14, ChildLine
declared a 200% increase in counselling specifically about exam stress. Mental
health concerns were apparent in over 50% of these cases. Some of the leading
causes of exam stress included fear of failure, not meeting parental
expectations, lack of revision and competition from peers. Exam stress can
affect students in numerous different ways such as difficulty in waking up and
falling asleep, constant tiredness, lack of appetite, feeling light-headed or
dizzy and increased anxiety and irritability. It can often present itself as a
panic attack, feeling physically sick or as unexplainable aches and pains. In
the worst cases of exam stress, teenagers may be hospitalised or some may even
try to take their own lives. In 2004, 15-year-old Tina Dziki unfortunately died
from taking an overdose of anti-malarial tablets after struggling with exam
pressures. If there was less focus on achieving ‘good’ grades then hopefully
teenagers’ mental health issues would be lessened and there would be no more
regrettable cases like Tina’s.

Conversely, the pressure put
on kids to get ‘good’ grades highlights the importance of these qualifications.
Having top grades is vital for securing a place at university. The hard work
and determination put in develops resilience and a good work ethic. However, it
is clear that some of the current testing methods and the stress put on them are
not beneficial for the students. In order to combat these problems and to
provide a rounder education, there should be more course work based
qualifications, which would remove the stress of a time-constrained, silent exam
and allow a folio of the pupil’s best work to be built up over time. Also, if
there were a greater focus on essential practical jobs, such as plumbing and
tailoring, which do not require degrees or the ‘best’ grades, thus decreasing
the likelihood of cheating, exam stress and damaged motivation.

The extreme focus on achieving
the best qualifications can have many harmful consequences on pupils such as exam
stress, resorting to cheating and a lack of motivation. These effects could be
lessened by providing continuous assessment or a greater emphasis on college
courses. In my opinion, there should be more concentration on learning and
gaining knowledge than acquiring grades.