Why educators should not overstress academic excellence

German scientist, Albert Einstein once said; “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

German scientist, Albert Einstein once said; “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Unfortunately, such words spoken decades ago seem to have been forgotten by our highly resourceful academic institutions. It is a tragedy that our education system always exaggerates academic excellence beyond other qualities. 


On several occasions, teachers and parents are seen conniving to make children with superior academic prowess feel that they are better than the rest. This negative impression is that when you score higher marks, you will have a brighter future and consequently turn out to be rich and famous. 


While not so much attention is given to such perceptions, this toxic way of thinking misleads bright individuals. Similarly weak ones are demotivated without their knowledge. These would end up with fear, low self-esteem and a nagging sense of hopelessness. Predictably, some of these ‘dullards’ waste their lives on drugs and crime much to the delight of crime patrons and drug barons, or even drop out of school. 


The good news is that all stakeholders in the education sector have an opportunity to change path from this course.

In my belief, education should be designed to assist all kinds of students find and exploit their areas of excellence.

Educators need to accept the simple fact that we are not cut from the same cloth. Every class has the monkey and the fish that must compete to climb the same tree therefore nonsensical to applaud the bright ones and scorn the weak.

Students need to understand that being top of your class does not necessarily guarantee that you will be at the top of life. Even when you graduate as the best student in Business Administration there is no guarantee that you will make more money than everybody else. 

Life requires more than the ability to understand a concept; memorize and reproduce it in an exam.

On the other hand, there are many diverse routes to success and educationalists out there need to open their eyes to these. For instance industries need to get more involved in getting the best out of our young people. 

Encourage students to develop cognitive and practical skills

If you look into a directory of successful people who are doctors, engineers and IT professionals, you will notice that many of them dream of being employed by people like Bill Gates or Richard Branson, who are prosperous despite not having college degrees.

Like Professor Abletor Sedofia from University of Ghana argues, “School rewards people for their memory but life reward them for their imagination. School rewards caution, life rewards daring. School hails those who live by the rules. Life exalts those who break the rules and set new ones.” Simply put, students should never be limited to the classroom. Instead, they should be encouraged in practical things like taking a leadership position or actively participating in extracurricular activities.

Activities like class debates, workshops, camps, and other co-scholastic areas are needed to teach them how to survive, how to do business, how to win cases, how to work with others, how to make others see what they are seeing and believe in what they believe in.

Employing academic failures is no longer a strange issue in organization settings since the hiring process looks beyond a perfect transcript or the institutions where you graduated. This is because most employers now match candidate soft and technical skills, experience with a job opening’s stated requirements. 

However a consideration is made for those elusive qualities such as personality, temperament, career progression and a host of other legitimate elements. So when our intelligent children now as adults get up to the rude awakening that mere academic excellence does not necessarily guarantee success, wealth and fame, it may be a tad too late!

It is therefore important for students to work on their personal development to avoid future disappointments as job seekers or entrepreneurs.

The writer is a lecturer at The Adventist University of Central Africa

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