Grading the Importance of Grades

Amani Tarud


With October over and December almost starting, people are going to start worrying much more about exams.  And, who can blame them?  Suddenly, it’s the big topic that the teachers will be discussing, and most likely the main thing that people will talk about. All this exam pressure is going to wear you down soon, so I’d like to offer you a new perspective on marks:  they are not important. 

That sounds controversial, maybe even counterintuitive.  But it is truer than truth.  Let’s take a closer look.

Why do we feel that marks are so important, a key deciding factor on who we work with, who we hang out with, what we do with our time?  Because, from the moment we pop out of the womb, we are brainwashed by the idea that there is no other way to be successful than to go to school, go to university, get a degree, and then get a job that offers you stability.  There is nothing further from the truth. 

University is not necessary to succeed in life.  There are tons of careers out there that do not require a university degree. Chefs, police officers, firefighters, secretaries, librarians, dancers, actors, musicians, artists…do not need that degree to get into their professions. And all these professions are as important to a functioning society as careers that do require a university education. 

But we are told that if we don’t go to university, we will not succeed in life.

There are many ways to be just as successful and much happier than those who worry to death about their marks. The first? Do what you love.  If you spend all your time studying things that your parents expect you to study, how will you ever find what you do like?  How will you find your passion? – You won’t. A British author, educator and international education advisor Sir Ken Robinson believes that if you live your life the way others expect you to, you will lead a life in which “[you] get no pleasure from what [you] do. [You] endure it, rather than enjoy it, and wait for the weekend.”

Do you really want to be the kind of person who lives for the weekend, goes out on Saturdays to party and get absolutely smashed in a vain attempt to momentarily forget about your mediocre existence?  It might sound harsh, but I see people like this daily. 

There are billions of ways to do whatever you love every day, but without time to experiment, to try your hand at everything, how will you ever figure out what your passion is?  Put down your textbooks for a couple minutes every day and do whatever you like to do. If you love to dance, dance.  If you love to draw, draw.  If you love running, go out for a run around the block. 

If you’ve already figured out what you love, good for you. Keep doing that, and don’t let school get in the way. Develop your skills. Practice–because you just might be the next  Andrew Lloyd Webber, the next Annie Leibovitz, or the next Van Gogh.

On the other hand, if you do want to go to university to study what you love, then go.  There are seven billion people on the planet and we are all different.  What worked for your parents might not work for you and what works for your best friends might not work for you, either. 

Be your own person, do what you love, and enjoy life. 

So, the next time you are up at three in the morning studying for tomorrow’s calculus test, remember: success isn’t measured in numbers, but in how happy you are with your life.