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Reducing exam stress in Singapore: Should Grades Define Worth?

We all know and are familiar with the names like Shakespeare, Plato and Thomas Jefferson, they made a lot of contribution to the education industry, but what if we tell you that even such legends were never graded?

In this 21st century, grades pretty much define where we stand and what we are worth. Totally opposite to what used to happen in the earlier days.

Our whole education system is influenced by grades. Now, students no longer study to understand things and gain new knowledge, they study to get good grades. This is so because the education system as well as the society has shown them how their performance and worth is dependent on their grades.

So, even in Singapore, for these students, scoring good grades is the primary purpose of studying whereas gaining knowledge has become secondary.

This is pretty much everything that is wrong with our education system.

Let us highlight a practice which has been going on for a while now, as it shows how everything relies on grades.

Aren’t all organizations looking for students who have the best grades and who belong to best universities, who also accept only those students who have the highest grades amongst the rest?

This is one example of how grades are now determining everything, a student’s worth, his or her career and a lot more.

Believe us when we say, this obsession of getting good and the highest grades take a toll on these students. Parents and guardians who put excessive pressure on their children for scoring the best grades are the reasons why anxiety, depression as well as self-harm is so common now in this age.

A counselor in Singapore once mentioned an example of how obsessed parents can be with grades. There was this student who scored an A in her Mathematical examination, which is a very good grade. However, she was upset and even started crying because her mother wanted her to score nothing less than an A*.

This kind of obsession can drive students into depression. When they try their best, and instead of appreciation when they receive backlash in return, it breaks their hearts. That is one reason why some parents turn to online psychology to help with behavioural health for their children

Grades DO NOT define what we are worth.

If anything, grades are bad for the education system and here are the reasons why:



That’s true! Students should not be encouraged to study and go to schools or universities in order to get good grades. This is where our education system lacks. Students must be encouraged to go to schools in order to learn and gain knowledge. This should be the end goal; Growth, Knowledge and Awareness.

Grades have become the end goal, and in order to get good grades, students are into rote learning even of the things which are not important, leaving behind the true context and essence of that subject.

Education should be about personal development as well as self-grooming, but because grades are now considered of the utmost priority, the important things are getting overshadowed.

Students are not really learning anything; they are only rote learning in order to pass the test with good grades and that’s it!

Great organizations like Google, understands that grades mean nothing. They do not hire candidates by looking at their transcript or GPA, they hire on the basis of their learning and understanding of the subject and how street smart they are. It is simple they say. Anyone can get good grades by rote learning, but not everyone can understand the concepts and implement on them in their real lives.



We all know, relate and can understand to the feeling we get when we receive an A and the absolute failure type feeling we get when we see a big F on our report card. This is because the society and the old traditions have instilled this in our minds and thus, the emotional and mental associations with the grade.

Due to this thinking, students now have a fear of being on the receiving end of the grade F. Which makes them choose the way and the path which provides least resistance in getting a good grade. Many students and even us when we were in university, we used to opt for courses which we were sure of would be easy and we will get a good grade on our transcript.

What does this do?

It makes us let go of the learning opportunity. We would rather have a good and an easy A rather than opt for a difficult course and have a risk of getting a bad grade.

But let’s reflect on it. Is this kind of learning actually helping us? Would we want our children to do the same thing and avoid the risk like we did?

We are allowed to make mistakes and so is everyone else. These students, they are only learning. They are allowed to fail, lag behind, because only this will teach them how to embrace failure and learn from it. Only if these students take risks, will they be able to think out of the box and open their minds to new possibilities. Everyone in Singapore and in the world should have a wakeup call, especially the parents.

Grades do not define our worth, our learning and our understanding does. Obsession with these grades will not make your children the person you want them to become, learning and understanding will.

Students should be taught how it is okay to fail, and how it is okay to make mistakes as long as they learn from them.



Receiving feedback is very important, for students, for the teachers and for the entire education system. But grades are not the proper way to provide feedback to the students.

Here are the reasons why:


Grades tend to hugely affect the relationship that there is between the teachers and the student. Usually, teachers tend to get biased towards those who receive an A from them as compared to those who receive a C or a grade below. This should not be the case at all. If anything, teachers should have the same feeling towards every student as they are all only learning.


When a person who receives a C on a subject, we automatically assume that he is not as intellectual as those who received an A or he is not good in studies.

But grades only tell one side of the story. Grades are not an appropriate tool for giving feedback or for evaluating the performance of a student because it does not give an in-depth analysis of his or her performance. Maybe some kid who is weak in math’s is amazing at some other thing.

Read also: Best 15 Music schools to learn piano, violin, drums and other musical instruments

Even Einstein has mentioned that if we judge a fish by its ability to climb, it will live his whole life feeling like a fool.

And the case of students is not any different. When we give feedback to the children through a grade, we basically tell them that you are not good at this, stop trying. While a good education system would tell them that its okay if you cannot do it this way, try doing it another way or go for another approach.

It is important for parents as well as the teachers to understand that a children’s life is not as black and white as it seems to them. Their brains work and function according to their age, not according to the age of their parents or teachers.

Children deal with many different issues, like trying to fit in, feeling like the odd one out, making friends, cyberbullying etc. In this case, they need someone they can confide in, like their parents or siblings.

It is very common for households where there is a single child, parents invest their everything in his or her education and they expect great returns for their money and efforts. But what they need to realize is that putting so much pressure on a kid can put him under a lot of stress. And being a single child, he or she cannot even share it with his or her siblings. This leads to depression, anxiety and problems later in life.

You, me and everyone else is worth so much more than what we score in an exam. Our self-worth and self-esteem cannot be based on how we perform academically. These students are more than what GPA they graduate with. These students are more than how many opportunities they do or do not get of getting a great internship. We cannot determine their worth and what they will be in the future based on an alphabet written on a piece of paper. It is important to get out of this mindset and only then will the students and the children will too.

It is time to start believing and implementing on the fact that learning is understanding, and studying is a way to gain knowledge.


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About Author

Tutor City's blog focuses on balancing informative and relevant content, never at the expense of providing an enriching read. 

We want our readers to expand their horizons by learning more and find meaning to what they learn.

Resident author - Mr Wee Ben Sen, has a wealth of experience in crafting articles to provide valuable insights in the field of private education.

Ben Sen has also been running Tutor City, a leading home tuition agency in Singapore since 2010.