The Public Display of Grades | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 20, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 20, 2020

The Public Display of Grades

An Odious Practice

This might be hard to believe, but there are schools which openly display the grades of students. The practice has harmful consequences. However, there are those who defend it.

One line of argument goes that good students get motivated when everyone else gets to see their grades and students who perform poorly also get motivated because they see that others did better than them. This thinking is problematic for two reasons. Firstly, it makes learning take a backseat and pushes students to focus instead on getting marks; secondly, it assumes that all students have the same abilities and opportunities, and so to improve, all students need to do is try harder.

Grades often do not reflect much about students themselves – yes, the student probably worked hard and could be adept at learning, but the reasons for getting good grades could also hinge on having parents and/or tutors who can provide extra help to the student (having tutors in turn depends on whether the family has the ability to pay for it), a stable and safe situation at home, and also the student having a learning style the teacher can address among many other things.

Additionally, grades homogenise students. It doesn't take into account their unique strengths and weaknesses nor does it consider the different aspirations and interests they may have.

Our childhood and adolescence is a period where there is massive change and development. Students should have the chance to explore their interests and learn by engaging in different activities during this time. However, students often sacrifice their hobbies and extracurricular activities for good grades. They lose the chance to learn different things. Moreover, grades often miss out on the many different qualities and abilities a child has, and doesn't show all that a child had learned.  Publicly displaying grades creates the pressure to attain better scores, often at the cost of everything else.

Furthermore, this practice causes students to feel ashamed. There are instances of students falling ill from the stress, lying to friends and family, and using unethical means to get better grades. In short, unnecessary pain and stress is caused.

If you tell someone that the grades they got on a 1st grade math test determines what that their future will be, they might find that absurd, and rightly so, because grades at such a young age are nothing more than numbers on a paper. However, when everyone knows a child's grade, they judge that child based on that, often becoming blind to some of their other talents. This not only results in some parents and teachers attributing negative qualities like laziness and lack of desire to learn to a child if they perform poorly, it stops them from helping the child develop themselves in the field or subject they are interested in. They start acting as if nothing besides grades matter even though that is not true.

The paths our careers and lives take are not always linear, nor does it always proceed as planned. Therefore, it is better to let students explore and make mistakes without penalising them through humiliating practices such as publicly displaying grades.


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