Why grades are not an important marker of intelligence?

Off late, there has been a more refined conversation about children in primary schools experiencing stress, or stress like symptoms. We looked up a couple of studies for the purpose of this article and a lot of the studies we came across didn’t find enough evidence to support the claim that students are stressed.

Stressed out Asian girl biting a pencil while looking at her laptop
Are students really stressed? (Image source: Pixabay)

According to one researcher, the findings could be skewed since stress is not something that we typically associate with children. However, when researchers in Iran ran a study to comprehend school readiness in students from grade 5 to grade 8, they noticed an alarming amount of students complaining about physiological factors that deter their attentiveness in class like headaches, tiredness, restlessness and some cases, low levels of energy. 

This is atypical to children in those categories since their bodies are still young and are ideally supposed to have reserves of energy for days. As adults reading this, we are in a better position to identify all these classic symptoms as manifestations of stress. So, why are children stressed in school? Among the many answers we zeroed in on, one stood out for us: performance anxiety. Imagine little children spending their learning years stressed in school simply because the standardized system requires them to display their abilities in numbers? It is simply unfair and here’s why we believe that marks have nothing to do with a child’s ability or intelligence.

1. Standardized testing discounts diverse areas of intelligence:
The academic systems in most countries rely on grades that are collated for universally standardized subjects. For instance, Maths and Science. It is a poor reflection of a child’s ability to be tested for only Maths, Science subjects when they could be exemplary at Art.

Student reading a math question paper
(Image source: Pixabay)

2. Based on limited study:
The education system has another problem – it only tests students based on their ability to learn by rote. Every child learns differently and unfortunately, school boards don’t have time to test every student based on their learning styles.

3. We do not test for interest or passion:
Intelligence is often referred to as the ability of a person to learn and update their existing knowledge base. It doesn’t mean the ability to learn Science, Maths, Social Science alone. Children perform better in subjects they have a natural affinity for and this could be based on a lot of factors including how well a teacher teaches a particular subject.

4. Does not prioritise comprehension:
The exam system tests a student’s ability to replicate material on paper. There is an elementary problem with this system since examinations are designed to test how much students can learn by rote. This is also the reason why students tend to forget concepts since they study only with the aim of passing examinations without keying in the concepts for fundamental understanding.

List of passed students.
(Image source: Pixabay)

5. Discounts external factors that could potentially influence grades:
None of us performs at our most optimum when we are unwell or stressed. Examinations are inherently stressful. Stress, fatigue, performance anxiety, general ill-health are all factors that affect a student’s ability to perform and if we judge them without taking into account these factors, we are giving them a lifetime’s worth of stress and insecurity.

Having said all of this, it is not our intention to discourage students from taking initiative and studying. Doing well in school is extremely important, but that doesn’t come above the importance of learning. Students get one chance at schooling and they should worry about learning instead of scoring in exams. Once they are encouraged to learn in class through various creative activities, they are automatically put in a place where they also perform. So, as parents and educators, we must reflect on improving teaching techniques instead of improving student grades. Chances are, your ward will perform better when the emphasis is removed from examinations and placed on learning.

What do you think about examinations? Leave a comment on this blog post and let us know your opinions.