The Contrarian View about “Life Beyond Grades”
The fact remains that, eventually, we better “accomplish something”. If not at the PSLE, then it’d better be by the time we start earning money.
I’m not a parent but conversations about PSLE annoy me to no end. Obviously, there’s the “I’ll Do Everything to Make Sure My Kid Scores Damn Well” camp. There’s the “It Doesn’t Matter As Long As You Try Your Best” camp. Recently, there is this camp trying to tell parents and students that it doesn’t matter because “life is more than your PSLE scores”.
The third camp promotes that even if you don’t do so well at your PSLE, it’s ok. It’s ok as long as in 20 or 30 years’ time, when the media interviews you about your PSLE, you have made something of yourself to tell people “grades don’t matter”.
It’s true. Grades don’t matter.
But if your definition of a life well lived is pegged to your professional achievements, then it’s still a damn stressful life to lead!
I know that the point of this campaign is to encourage kids to not give up on themselves, but I can’t help but see this thing as a bit of an exercise in “humble bragging”.
“I only got 176 for my PSLE! But it’s ok! Now, I’m boss of my own business!”
You know what would make this campaign mean more to a kid who is feeling damn pissed off that his hard work did not pay off? To the kid trapped in your-grades-will-tell-you-which-secondary-school-to-go system?
Show me an ex-high scorer who totally DID NOT MAKE IT IN LIFE.
Show me the kid who went to the Gifted Programme and is now totally performing under expectations. Show me the kid who was the top scorer and is neither a partner of a fancy law-firm nor a high-profile government servant. Show me the kid who did well in his PSLE, his O’Levels, and his A’Levels, and is now not making the world a better place.
Because here’s why it’s so important to also include the people who did well at PSLE and didn’t do so well later in life:
If grades really do not matter, what better way to prove it than show the people who ultimately did not benefit from doing well at school?
I’m not being a hater here. You see, when I was in primary school, the teachers were obsessed with this girl. Let’s call her G. G won this “Model Student” award in Primary 6, was the head prefect, and was the top scorer for PSLE in her year. In secondary school, she continued to be the perfect example of what it means to be a student of our school.
Well, few knew that G also went out of her way to belittle whatever I did. If it was a play I wrote, it was not good enough to be put on stage. If I had a chance to become the president of a club, she made sure everyone knew she did not like me and therefore should not vote for me. G also took the keys to the utility room that I was responsible for signing out, hid them in another girl’s uniform, and got me into trouble for “losing” them.
Did G make it in life? Of course she did! She went to a top-notch university and is some bigshot somewhere.
If there’s life beyond grades, it’s got to work both ways!
Poor grades don’t mean you’ll fail in life.
Good grades don’t mean you’ll succeed either!
Of course, no sane ad campaign is going to shame people for not making it in life! Here’s another thing to think about: using professional achievements to mitigate poor academic performance is not sending a healthy message either.
Why should we have to define our worth by what society can see — wealth, fame, power, and influence? So, you didn’t do well when you were 12 years old … oh … as long as you become someone famous and influential when you’re 30, that’s ok. Becoming a social media influencer, becoming someone famous, becoming a boss of something, marrying someone rich … that’s going to make all the pain of doing badly at your PSLE go away.
If society really doesn’t care about achievements, be they in the form of grades, bank accounts, or job titles, then Life Beyond Grades also should show the ones who didn’t make it despite their awesome grades.
33 down, 30 to go