“I failed my exam in some subjects but my friend passed. Now he’s an engineer in Microsoft and I’m the owner.” –Bill Gates.

Grades Are Just Numbers

We’ve all seen it—young kids crunching for finals, fully charged with hours-long preparations, piles of notes, last minute revisions,while praying for a test cancellation—many of us have even been there just a few years ago, while for some of us it has been decades. But no matter the distance of time, only a few could deny the most horrendous part of exams, the result day. Running up and down the stairs—restless, afraid and excited, fueled with a desperate need to grab that A.

But, despite all its grandeur, grades can only get you so far. A marker and a motivation for young people, they inspire children to work harder, be better and be more. Functioning as a subtle method for both parents and teachers to see educational progressions of children, an A in your certificate is taken as a matter of pride by many institutions.Terminal examinations and unit tests shape a structure for certain subjects; they are a revision for the curriculums being taught.

What they aren’t is a judgment on anyone as a person. Getting an A or A+ doesn’t mean you’re a good, genuine human being. In the meantime, a C in your certificate doesn’t mean you’re doomed for life.Grades do not show a shred of children’s character, morals, ability and in many systems, their intelligence.

Getting good grades is important, yes, but to devote your entire life into achieving that without a care for anything or anyone else is neither right nor healthy.A huge difference lies between having students challenge themselves for mental growth and having them stress out and have anxiety because of their grades.Grades isn’t knowledge; grades is a testament of curriculum’s knowledge.

When education becomes an endless competition, it transforms into a subject of anxiety and stress. When all of the test answers are a regurgitation of something memorized only a few hours, who is it helping? Sure, it gets a good grade, but does it leave a better subject understanding?

In order to better understand the real value of grades, we sat down with a conversation with Zealation Shah. Involved in the education field for twenty years now, Mr. Shah is currently a teacher at St. Xavier’s College, Maitighar. “Grades are a hallmark of one’s achievements.” He says, “Good credentials look good in applications. It shows you’re a hardworking, devoted individual and increases your chances of getting into the institution of your choice that you applied for.”  And he’s right.

Many colleges screen out below average and even average grades during their selection process. Good grades don’t just magically happen, they are earned. Considerable amount of investment goes into getting an A and it depicts students’ ability to complete a course material with impressive level of competency. Having an excellent score in your credentials is going to have an enormous impact on your life as long as you have understood the subject material, enjoy studying them and will build a career based on the very foundation laid by the subject material.

Which is why deciding a person’s caliber of success based on grades is so tricky. If the subject doesn’t interest a child, they will not pay much attention. This might result in lower grades, a score that might seem disappointing. However,the evaluation of an entire individual cannot be summed up by a single letter in the alphabet.

So how can one enforce practical knowledge, develop skills and encourage global awareness in children, while still keeping academics in focus?

“Participation in extracurricular activities is a must.” Mr. Shah recounts. “Whether its sports, arts or public speaking, each of them supplements specific sets of indispensable features in students. Just take a basketball tournament for example. It’s an epitome of physical activity combined with teamwork, opportunity, failure, loss, hard work, responsibility, time management and discipline.”

Experience and practice is the sleep that pushes your dream of proficiency forward. There’s no secret formula to success. Good grades are a step in the ladder of prosperity. But often we confuse it for the whole staircase, risking children’s health and happiness in the process of encouraging them to go up. It is only predictable that many who have great academic backgrounds get stuck in the middle of the climb.  Experience based knowledge can only be acquired through experience—thus, extracurricular activities, no matter how trivial, are excellent for developing self-awareness in young kids.

Global awareness stems from home environment, school surrounding, friend circle and what young people consume. A well-educated home plants a seed of knowledge into children, and a good school surrounding nurtures it so it can grow. Friend circle and internet feeds them with information in an overwhelming amount. This is where guardians should undertake responsibility. Talk to your children. Be honest. Separate facts from fiction. Foster their curiosity. And make them understand that their education is for them, not you, not the teachers, but them and only them.