Today was my eight year old daughter’s last day of school for the second term.

She had a statement to make – a child picked up a prize for a special achievement – with a sparkle in her eyes,  she asked me , can I also get a prize?

Which got me thinking. After assuring her that she indeed can, it made me go back in time to my school days. Most of us were average, as children often are. There were the brilliant ones and they were those who became the doctors and the engineers. Today, they still do. Our education system has not changed much from the days back when I went to school. The under achievers don’t always discover their potential – perhaps later in life and then they shine and notch up achievements.

The average ones always form the majority. They may not always be the bright sparks and maybe late bloomers but they are all special nevertheless. It’s sad that our education system does not allow the majority to also sparkle. While burdening one with a lot of useless information which can neither be used for a modern day career nor learnt to make things better in life, the system also gives an unfair advantage to the ones with photographic memory.

While studying for a case study during our marketing days, I remember the ones sitting around and listening to what was being discussed. Often enough, these listeners who were memorizing what was being discussed, achieved better results than the ones actually churning up ideas for the discussion. The system of learning by rote favours those who can cram and fill up their memory space with information, only to bring it out at an examination.

So how do we measure success – is it in terms of academic achievement or career success? As we now know, the academic performance is not always related to career highs. While it does happen – those who do well in school and university always go on to get into stellar careers especially if they are in specialised knowledge fields like medicine or law, for others, one is not always connected to the other.

Soft skills matter in the real world as much as academic performance – how do we measure up to the expectations of self-assured confidence, being articulate, smart, fast to learn and the ability to get things done independently. Those traits are powerful enough to make or break a career – and can sometimes even surpass academic achievements.

While we do encourage children to ensure they do well in school and at university, we should also make sure their social and emotional intelligence measures up. How are the speaking skills, writing skills – do they excel at inter personal relationships? How do they connect with one another, are they able to get things done and able to communicate effectively?

Back to the achiever at school – we must ideally be able to make sure all children can be achievers in their own way – and to assure them that even though they may not always make the cut academically, they can do well in life nevertheless.

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