ISSUE-026

Educators should teach facts only after their students have studied the ideas, trends, and concepts that help explain those facts.


Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the recommendation and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, describe specific circumstances in which adopting the recommendation would or would not be advantageous and explain how these examples shape your position.


How should educations’ assessment of students’ learning be based upon? There are two contrasting views on this. First, there are those who claim that the evaluation should be based on students’ ability to explain the ideas, trends, and concepts that facts illustrate. However, the opposite view argues that it is the grasp of facts that should play the most important role in assessing a student’s academic performance. My own point of view is more closely aligned with the latter, for the reason that the purpose of education is to select talents for the society, and therefore, educators need an objective and fair metrics to evaluate students.

First, let’s consider the view of those who do not agree with my standpoint. One of their strongest arguments regarding this issue is that students need the skills to explain a complex system in order to survive and thrive in the society. The lines of reasoning, according to them, are that we are living in a highly connected society today, and almost everything, big or small, requires certain degree of collaboration. For example, a new product launch from a small start-up requires not only collaborative work within the company, but also coordinations with outsiders such as suppliers, retailers, and the media. As a result, communication skills play an increasingly important role in our daily life. Apparently, if educators can better train students’ communication skills in school, by basing their assessment of students’ learning on those particular skill sets, students will be better prepared for their future careers as well as social life in general.

However, the aforementioned argument relies on an untold assumption on the purpose of education being preparing students for a better career, which I cannot agree with. Education should not be about one’s vocation, or otherwise it seems unreasonable to require students to learn subjects such as philosophy, history, literature, and art, which are not directly relevant to promoting one’s future careers. Instead, my view on the purpose of education is that it is an objective and fair way to select talents for the society. The reason is that to maximize the efficiency of our society, the division of labor is needed according to the economic theories of Adam Smith. As a consequence, the questions becomes how to allocate human resources to different departments. For example, one who is good at math should be working in finance instead of working in the oil field; similarly, one who has strong physical stamina is better suited to become a soldier than working as an office person. How

to differentiate people’s competitive advantages, as a result, becomes the question education systems seek to answer.

In this light, educators indeed need to base their assessment of students’ learning on their ability to understand facts because in this way an objective and fair evaluation metrics system can be established. That is because the grasp of facts can be quantitatively measured by asking specific questions regarding the facts themselves. On the other hand, if educators test students’ on their abilities to explain and interpret those facts, it is much more difficult to have an objective standard. For example, the occurrence of an event in history can be asked and a student’s response be evaluated objectively. However, it is harder, if not impossible, to objectively grade students’ response if they were asked to explain the significance of this event. Therefore, a lack of objective standards in assessing students’ learning based on their ability of explaining and interpreting is the reason why I am against this recommendation.

To sum up, while it cannot be denied that asking students to learn to explain ideas behind facts can better prepare them for future careers and social life, this is not consistent with the purpose of education. Instead, from my point of view the education system should be able to select potential talents for the society on an objective and fair basis. Hence, I recommend the practice of evaluating students’ learning based on their grasp of facts, which can be objectively quantified.

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