ISSUE-023

Competition for high grades seriously limits the quality of learning at all levels of education.


Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.


Our education system today puts a considerable amount of emphasis on the grades of a student. For example, standardized tests are a prerequisite for college entrance worldwide, such as the National Entrance Exam for Higher Education in China and SAT and ACT in the United States. Given these reasons, competition for high grades is becoming increasingly fierce. Some observers argue that such competition is beneficial by motivating students to excel in the classroom, while others disagree. They see the competition for high grades instead as an obstacle to real learning. From my own point of view, it should be acknowledged that competition for high grades can indeed motivate students, but at the same time it does limit real learning. The core of my argument is that real learning does not mean excelling in classroom; instead, the real purpose of learning is beyond schools and should be fulfilled in one’s entire life. As a result, my view is more closely aligned with those who believe that competition for high grades seriously limits the quality of learning.


First, it is undeniable that competition for high grades is a stimulus for students to work hard, because high grades are often associated with honors and prizes. As a result, students who have achieved high grades will be regarded as excellent, which will give them advantages in life. For example, in high schools, those who can achieve high scores in standardized tests such as ACT and SAT are more likely to be admitted to top universities and to receive better education. Similarly, potential employers will also evaluate a student based on his or her scores, meaning that if a student can score higher GPAs in universities it is more likely to secure a better job after graduation. Therefore, we must admit that in today’s world where scores and grades are important metrics in evaluating the potential of students, competition for high grades can incentivize students to excel in the classroom and to stand out among their peers.


However, despite the benefits of competing for high grades, I must agree with those who see competition as an obstacle to real learning. The fundamental reason is that real learning is more than excelling in classroom and scoring high in exams. Instead, learning is a process that should be life-long, the purpose of which is to allow us to effectively search for information and critically evaluate it. Apparently there is no grading system for such abilities after school. If a student only learns for the sake of high scores, he or she will unlikely continue to learn after graduation, because in the society there is no established grading scales for one’s performance. In this scenario, the consequence is that students will lose the incentives to learn and gradually stagnate. From the perspective of the society this is also detrimental, since innovations require people to keep absorbing new ideas and knowledge. Should the competition for high grades becomes the sole goal of learning, therefore, the society will suffer a lack of progress because the workforce no longer aspires to improve itself.


To summarize, although it is true to certain extent that competition for high grades will motivate students to excel in school, it can also distract students from real learning once grades are the only a student shall pursue. Real learning, in my opinion, is more than scores and instead is about gaining and assessing new pieces of information. Hence, my point of view is in closer agreement with the opposers of the competition for high grades.

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