When we begin secondary school, it seems we are removed from the happy, creative haven that is primary school and dropped into a daunting new world where the main objective shifts from enjoyment to achieving good exam results. We are constantly reminded of the need for good grades in order to succeed in the world, and the consequences we will incur for ourselves if we choose not to abide by this system.

It goes without saying that it is important to work hard at school, college and of course, university (should you opt to pursue a degree), but at the end of it all – what do a few letters, or numbers, on a piece of paper really demonstrate? An ability to work well under pressure no doubt, and perhaps hard-work and commitment (it depends how good you are at exams, and whether or not you actually do work for them),  but it isn’t exactly a fair representation of who we are as people. To think that so many things are significantly dependent on our exam grades is quite crazy – we’re being judged on our abilities by people who have never met us.

Perhaps you have experienced a results day where you feel the grades you have been given do not fully justify the work you put in, or the passion you have for a subject. The point I’m trying to make is, you can be the most hard-working and intelligent person – but if that exam doesn’t go well for you, or you generally find exams tough, well that grade is all you have to show for your hours of hard work. In contrast to this, you can do nothing all year and if you open the paper and the questions are unexpectedly easy, or you are fortunate enough to possess an extremely good memory, you may be awarded a grade you do not truly deserve. Therefore, how is the exam system an accurate and fair way to determine a person’s capability?

Why is it that from an early age, we are split up into groups that decipher our apparent intelligence or ability? If a person is not so good at Maths, English and Science, does that mean that they are not able to thrive in Politics, or Philosophy or History? Or that they can’t succeed in other avenues, such as Music or Art?

I think that sometimes we can all get too obsessed with grades. As good as it is that someone can perform well in an exam, it says nothing about who they are as a person. All too often education is confused with intelligence; a university degree does not make you intelligent, just as not having a degree does not make you unintelligent.  We should try our hardest to attain good grades, but it should always be kept in mind that ultimately, they are just a few letters on a piece of paper – and our experiences, opinions and passions count for a whole lot more.