How much grades matter depends on person's goals

The Life Beyond Grades movement marks an important move towards reducing exam-related stress among young children in Singapore (Seeing life beyond grades; Sept 9). It is a worthy cause.

Still, it is important to remember that while many students may overcome societal limitations placed on them by their exam grades to achieve success, this is much more challenging for disadvantaged children than for children from middle-class families.

Children from disadvantaged backgrounds do not enjoy the financial, social and, sometimes, emotional support afforded to many children from middle-class families.

So good grades - and, consequently, broader educational opportunities - are often the only way for them to gain exposure to new career paths.

In addition, while success can be achieved no matter one's grades, not all career paths are readily accessible without excellent grades.

For instance, without good grades, success in the creative industry is much more attainable than in the hard sciences or in professions like law and medicine.

Indeed, the founders of the movement work in creative fields like marketing, publishing and F&B. Many of their supporters, who have shared their PSLE scores through social media, are design entrepreneurs, actors, film-makers, deejays and hosts.

For some, careers in the hard sciences or professions such as law and medicine might be an intrinsic passion. In this ultra-competitive world, an early focus on grades may be necessary to reach those goals.

There is, of course, no one-size-fits-all approach for every child. No one is wholly defined by his grades. But the degree to which grades matter - and to which one can have a life beyond them - is ultimately dependent on the child's personal context and goals.

Chin Hui Wen (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2018, with the headline 'How much grades matter depends on person's goals'. Print Edition | Subscribe