Why Grades Don't Really Matter

Help your child enjoy her education without giving in to grade-related pressures. For grades obtained in exams don’t necessarily define her abilities nor predict how well she would do in life.

By Hannah S Mathew

Why Grades Don't Really Matter

It is a sad fact that the present education system attaches too much importance to grades obtained in various tests or exams. Parents too are unyielding in their expectations from their wards, often labelling them ‘genius’, ‘dunce’, ‘all-rounder’, etc. In general, all these labels are prompted by the grades a child obtains in exams. Unfortunately, instead of encouraging children to improve in what they are good at, the present home and school environments pressurise them to perform better than others.

The truth about comparing children

It is unfair to compare one child with another because no two children are alike. Each excels in some pursuits and falls behind in others. An inspiring and anonymous quote that often pops up on social media goes like this: “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Would you pit Jesse Owens against Albert Einstein? You wouldn’t. So, why should you compare your child’s grades with others and put him under undue pressure.

Children pay for society’s ills

The increasing population has led to a greater struggle for the decreasing resources which has put children under too much pressure. They are relentlessly driven to outdo others for a better future. This situation is further compounded by poor career choices, which are mostly the result of the thought that a successful profession is one that is high paying. This mindset prevents children from daring to aspire and break away from the norm. As a result, unique fortes are seldom unearthed and a great wealth of human talent goes waste.

Grades versus passion

The renowned astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson says that as a student he was “moved by curiosity, interest and fascination, not by making the highest scores on a test … no one ever asks you what your grades were. Grades become irrelevant … ambition and innovation trump grades every time.” The inconsequentiality of grades was also highlighted recently by the achievement of the Indian teen, Rifath Sharook. This 18-year-old from Tamil Nadu developed the world’s lightest working satellite. Yet, he only scored a humble 75% in his class 10 exams. In his words, “I live in a joint family and none of my family members have pressurised me to score or even study at all. My achievement is due to passion and never pressure."

Is your child defined by his grades?

Rifath Sharook’s grades don’t define him, as they, in no way, are related to his achievement. In fact, grades don’t define anyone, especially when they are awarded based only on performance in exams. There are students who are poor test-takers, slow writers, fall ill during exams, have other personal problems that hinder concentration, and so on. But all these shortcomings don’t make them any less intelligent than their more fortunate counterparts.

How to make sense of the grading system

In the near future, it does not seem like grades achieved in academics will be replaced with something that represents an all-round evaluation of a child’s capabilities. So, despite its many glaring flaws, the reality is that a child’s grades can affect her future. But, this need not be disheartening news. For you should understand that, if a child chooses a career path based on her strengths, and not her grades, her future can only be bright.

How to help your child pursue his/her passion

You will be doing your child the biggest favour if you could help him find his niche in this world. 

  1. There are many psychological profiling and aptitude tests that can help you and your child understand what he may excel in. Encourage him to take those tests.
  2. Keep praising her strengths so that she knows that she has your acceptance despite not being the best in everything.
  3. Teach him to accept and be comfortable with failure.
  4. Help her set goals that challenge her to do better, especially in subjects she considers herself strong.
  5. Encourage him to cultivate a passion for things that are of interest to him, to ask questions in the classroom, and develop a good rapport with his teachers.
  6. Most important of all, let your child know your expectations so that he feels at ease in his learning environment.

The end-result

Children are exceptionally perceptive of their surroundings. So, help your child focus on doing his best than on how others are doing, and he will grow up into a strong, capable, independent and responsible human being. That, dear parent, is true success!


Hannah S Mathew is a freelance teacher, trainer and certified diagnostic counsellor.