Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Beware of student being branded as average

Marks are obtained by 'smart' studying and reproducing. To get higher marks, one need not understand a subject deeply. Students can earn higher marks by avoiding to 'understand' a chapter or chapters. Marks therefore act as an indirect 'benchmark' to separate good students from average students. Although higher marks only measure the student's ability to reproduce a subject's understanding in 'canned' manner, we mistake marks to represent 'intelligence'. This can cause three unintended consequences.

One, because a student is evaluated by marks, student with lower marks is termed as 'average'. This changes his/her self-belief, which rubs in other actions and relationships. This further makes him/her feel worse about himself and hastens him to become ‘average’.

Two, groups in a school are 'sometimes' formed on the basis of marks. Students of higher marks group together. They inadvertently isolate a student with lower marks. Being together with 'smart' students can hasten a student's learning. This 'contagion' effect on learning can hamper growth of an average child further, because he gets less chances to exercise his 'brain' because he is challenged less.

Third, a student who understands a subject deeply is paradoxically penalised by the system. Because marks are obtained by the ability to reproduce standard results, not exceptional results, exceptional understanding of a subject is not encouraged. Student's 'uniqueness' and 'exceptionality' is ignored. And therefore nothing is done to nurture it. Virtuous cycle of growing the exceptional talent is stopped unknowingly. We call these students 'average'.

In other words, average students may not be average at all. They just miss the boat at an early stage and fail to catch up with it later. Or they may have some exceptional ability which is ignored by the system. Or they have skills like ‘relationship skills’ which is not measured by any marks. It is therefore important to understand average students over a long period of time so that their ‘uniqueness’ can be identified. Because even the aptitude tests do not measure their uniqueness, as these tests also rely on the past experience of the student.

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