Measure of Success

At this time of year much of my time is spent meeting prospective parents and discussing their daughter’s education. With each conversation I am reminded that our role as educators is to ensure that we equip the girls to be confident in themselves and that they believe they can make a difference, no matter how small, to the world which they live in.

I know I have said this in many of my blogs but as I continue to read articles in newspapers, educational journals and attend conferences around the world, I become more convinced of the necessity to give our pupils a set of skills, rather than a portfolio of facts, to excel in the myriad of opportunities that will be presented to them.

When I use to teach Geography I prided myself on teaching oxbow lakes, wave cut platforms and the Green Revolution exceptionally well as it helped the girls pass their GCSEs successfully, but over time what became more important to me was that the girls, through their lessons, would become free thinkers, who were open minded, confident, flexible and principled. I think the girls I have taught will have called upon these skills more in their work place than the knowledge of how an oxbow lake was formed.

Unfortunately educational success has become blurred with examination success, where the criteria being measured are factual recall, writing fast in a short period of time and understanding the mind-set of the examiner.  Very few jobs require these skills and I was therefore reassured to read this week in the Washington Post that top universities in USA are reviewing their entry requirements.

The Admissions officer at Yale said: “Yes, we want students who have achieved in and out of the classroom, but we are also looking for things that are harder to quantify, [like] authentic intellectual engagement and a concern for others and the common good.”

The University of Virginia agreed and said they were looking for strong character, personal responsibility and civic engagement, and were becoming less reliant on the examination results.

I guess for me, the girls are at the heart of what we do. Their success is our success and I am just glad that success is now being measured more widely for the girls to feel they can excel.

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