Concern over grades and curiosity for learning are two separate things

Mr Tan Peng Boon seems to have mixed up grades and learning in his letter (Give students the option to stick with current education system; Nov 7).

The obsession with grades does not always translate into learning. Many A grades are engineered through repetitive practice of the 10-year series books, tuition classes, rote learning, remedial lessons and more - efforts which we have come to label as "hard work".

Such endeavours hardly spark joy or invite curiosity. If not for exams and grades, I wonder how much self-initiated learning there will be in students. What happened to learning for learning's sake?

Perhaps the Ministry of Education has now done away with the one-size-fits-all system - the archaic system where only grades matter. The new changes aim to widen recognition of natural gifts and skills which are better identified through exposure to different environments and stimuli such as field trips, experiments and other more unconventional methods of acquiring knowledge.

At the end of the day, it is not about avoiding stress but, rather, finding out what each individual deems worthy of stress - for example, sports, games, art or even the pursuit of academic excellence.

I don't think Albert Einstein or Isaac Newton needed grades to motivate them to keep pushing and stressing about their theories and inventions. They were not competing with anyone and, yet, constantly challenged themselves.

I believe, with the recent changes, we are on the right track.

Tony Tan Song Huat

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2018, with the headline 'Concern over grades and curiosity for learning are two separate things'. Print Edition | Subscribe