The concept of marks is as old as the school system itself, an integral part of the design of schools; marks complete the critical feedback loop needed to sustain ‘life’ in any system – biological, social or physical.
‘Marks’ are everywhere – appraisal system at work, cricket scores, stock exchanges, school exams, penalty points for traffic violations, credit card usage points, etc. Marks are the simplest expression of evaluation (such as exams, observations, project works), a means of communicating the same; most commonly, marks follow evaluation.
Our position is very clear on marks – marks cannot be compromised for anything! Every student must maximise marks obtained in every evaluation, irrespective of the level of clarity of the underlying concepts.
However, there is a catch – marks and concepts are not mutually exclusive! In the short term itself, marks achieved without conceptual clarity make the next high mark target a bit tougher to reach and it only gets tougher thereafter. And as we all know, seeking marks, without commensurate level of concepts, is always unsustainable; the luckiest ones get past the first competitive battle (e.g. admission to top engineering colleges) but (almost) never the second (e.g. a campus placement with a great company).
Thus, the right thing is to secure marks powered by conceptual clarity rather than rote memory.
Let us now come to the crux of it all – how to be conceptually strong and apply it to score high:
- Make concepts the base of learning in the current class – lack of conceptual clarity is largely due to teaching in schools not being centred on concepts; find a way to supplement your study through a concept-based learning system. ‘Mentoring Million Minds’ (www.panIITalumni.org/mmm) is one such eduportal for Classes VI – X.
- Get back to the previous-class concepts and master them all – most subjects follow a hierarchy in concepts from lower to higher classes and ideally no ‘step’ in a hierarchy should be missing. Schools just throw away previous class performance data & focus on current class performance – a practice that severely affects development of concepts. Find a way to acquire the necessary previous-class concepts through a concept-based learning system. ‘Mentoring Million Minds’ (www.panIITalumni.org/mmm) is one such eduportal for Classes VI – X.
- Secure command over the language of reading and writing – the language of thinking must be rich in vocabulary usage and structure. For an alarmingly large majority of students in India, English language skills are very poor for academic transactions (even their mother tongue competence is only at the social communication level and not at the academic level). Read extensively to raise your language competencies!
- Make academic concepts a subject of conversations with friends and classmates – unless concepts are talked about they will not get internalised and would not help in securing high marks in exams. For instance, if music is all that a group of friends talk about, there is little chance that they will know about acceleration beyond the definition and usage of its formula at a basic level.
- Get the school to assess all the concepts taught in an academic year – this is to ensure that no concepts are ignored by the students and they have a simpler strategy for exam preparation – no guess work should be required for exams – all concepts in a class must be read and revised repeatedly.
While more recommendations can be made to ensure that concepts and marks are aligned, the aforementioned five constitute the critical core of the changes needed to ensure high marks riding on high conceptual clarity.
We also feel obliged to stress that it is quite inexplicable why there is so much clamour for marks at a time when educational qualifications are getting marginalised in the professional journey – people are being recruited for their creativity, thinking, team play, leading without authority, communication skills and, above all, being a learner.
Unfortunately, importance of marks in our current system of evaluation is more for ‘conformance to the textbooks’ rather than independent thinking and, in the process, striving for marks represents just the opposite of what our children need to be to attain success in life and career.
Ensure high marks ride on conceptual clarity!