Keep the ma­tric drama in per­spec­tive as we’re all unique

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

If we mea­sure suc­cess on the bench­mark of ma­tric re­sults then we do a mas­sive dis­ser­vice to so many who will fall short of those ex­pec­ta­tions

THIS is the time of year that draws an enor­mous sense of an­tic­i­pa­tion out of par­ents and their chil­dren. In just a few pupils it cre­ates a sense of dread too and in some an over­whelm­ing sense of their in­ad­e­qua­cies.

Peo­ple de­velop and evolve over their lives. To mea­sure some­one on a mo­ment, a snap­shot in Novem­ber of­ten proves an in­ac­cu­rate as­sess­ment of that in­di­vid­ual.

How many school fail­ures be­come great suc­cess later in life? How many school suc­cesses never reach that po­ten­tial ex­pected of their 18-year-old selves?

I am a marker and mod­er­a­tor of many years’ ex­pe­ri­ence and I have just re­turned from a week in Joburg where I spent my days guid­ing a team of mark­ers in their as­sess­ment of the 12500 In­de­pen­dent Ex­am­i­na­tions Board exam scripts writ­ten by ma­tric English pupils who write un­der the aus­pices of the IEB.

There are a far greater num­ber who write the Na­tional Se­nior Cer­tifi­cate pa­pers. Both sys­tems pro­vide an as­tute and highly cred­i­ble as­sess­ment that is rig­or­ous and de­mand­ing of pupils and as­ses­sors.

When­ever I in­ter­view a new pupil look­ing to come to Woodridge Col­lege and Prepara­tory School I ask them to hold up their in­dex fin­ger. Be­ing an English teacher by pro­fes­sion, I can’t help but add some drama to the scene. I look care­fully at the fin­ger that is be­ing held up. I have no doubt that the boy or girl and their par­ents at that point are won­der­ing what I’m up to. But what I’m do­ing is draw­ing to­gether a crit­i­cally im­por­tant mes­sage that ev­ery­one should be hear­ing.

Af­ter care­fully scru­ti­n­is­ing the digit, I re­mark: “Yes, just as I thought. I have never seen a fin­ger­print just like yours… and I won’t ever see one just like it again.”

You see ev­ery­one is an in­di­vid­ual: price­less, pre­cious, won­der­ful, unique, spe­cial and very, very dear to all the peo­ple who are as­so­ci­ated to that child. We tend to pin ev­ery­thing on cer­tain spe­cific mo­ments in our lives and it breaks my heart when I read in the pa­per of the sui­cides that take place af­ter ma­tric re­sults are re­leased.

Ev­ery year it’s the same. Ev­ery year peo­ple mea­sure their self-worth on the re­sults of the ex­ams writ­ten over a month in Novem­ber. We aren’t summed up by these marks. They don’t rep­re­sent who we are and while they are im­por­tant. There are count­less peo­ple who have risen to ex­tra­or­di­nary suc­cesses on the back of dire scholas­tic per­for­mance.

We need to keep ev­ery­thing in per­spec­tive. Ma­tric is im­por­tant. Aca­demics are vi­tal and should be pri­ori­tised as the gold stan­dard that all good schools do of­fer.

While sound aca­demics, cou­pled with sport­ing and cul­tural arms form the bedrock of an holis­tic ed­u­ca­tion, it is vi­tal that we ac­knowl­edge that not ev­ery­one will mea­sure up to the suc­cess of the few in this ma­tric glad­i­a­to­rial arena.

Chil­dren should at the pri­mary core en­joy school. If they en­joy school they will per­form bet­ter. They will be en­cour­aged to make the most of their op­por­tu­ni­ties.

If they live in fear, as many do, of un­der­per­form­ing on the aca­demic stage, then we do them a dis­ser­vice.

If we mea­sure suc­cess on the bench­mark of ma­tric re­sults, then we do a mas­sive dis­ser­vice to so many who will fall short of those ex­pec­ta­tions.

Chil­dren are spe­cial. Whether they get an “A” for AP maths or an “E” for life science, each child is a price­less and unique in­di­vid­ual who can make an in­valu­able con­tri­bu­tion to the vast ta­pes­try that makes up hu­mankind.

To mea­sure some­one on what hap­pens be­tween the start and end of Novem­ber of one’s ma­tric year is to crit­i­cally un­der­es­ti­mate hu­man po­ten­tial and it is one of the rea­sons why our so­ci­ety isn’t close to reach­ing its po­ten­tial.

Chil­dren are spe­cial. No mat­ter what marks they get. Let’s get the mes­sage out.

While they are im­por­tant, our marks don’t sum up who we are

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