To Fail Or Not To Fail



Failed. F. Unsuccessful. We've all seen these words or letters written a few times in our lives, it's part of growing up right?! We revise for exams, we apply for jobs, we constantly submit work or opinions to all sorts of people and sometimes we're told that we're wrong. No one wants to hear it and quite frankly it's pretty upsetting but without it would it give us the chance to grow and push our boundaries to the limit? In school we were all brought up to expect that good grades were completely in reach for every individual but if you didn't knuckle down you'd face the chance of failure, it's what pushes many of us to try. So what if an exam paper was returned with something far different, what if it said 'not yet'....

Teachers should drop the word “fail” in favour of “not yet” when grading work because negative feedback damages pupils’ confidence, a report has warned. The new suggested guidelines argue that this system would raise children's motivational levels and help schools to adopt a more positive mindset. I can see their argument (sort of), there's nothing worse than seeing the dreaded 'F' in any aspect of life. Changing it could spur on hope, it offers far less disappointment anyway. Using these new bold statements could potentially have a positive outcome for many children that feel they struggle with work, it's embarrassing to tell people you've failed, and we've all been there when we have that dreaded talk with the parents. 'Not yet' could save us from these things, it could push our pupils to think that they have a chance of succeeding later on BUT it doesn't actually prepare them at all for the harshness of life.

"It's really important for young people to grow up with the ability to get on and achieve, but also to find out what failure is."

Being told you've failed is a natural development. Life is all about getting things wrong. 'Never a failure always a lesson' is one way of looking at it. How on earth are teachers meant to mark a mathematics answer?! 1+1=3 could never be marked with a 'not yet', it doesn't motivate, it surely only causes confusion?! We all want to give our children the best opportunities in life, to set them up for the future and to make sure that they understand the way in which the world works. As previously covered, when you leave school or university and enter the big wide world it is hard, it's dog eat dog and we need to be able to prepare them for unsuccessful applications. Applying for a job and not making the cut has happened to us all, but we ask for feedback, move on and learn from it. Imagine the look on your child's face when they receive a reply from an employer stating 'this job could be yours, but not just yet'.  Surely this just wouldn't be plausible?!

Top grades are what entice many of us in. I remember calling my dad on results day and being proud that I could see A's on my report. If F's were banished, would A's be too? Would it potentially blur the lines between grades altogether. How would we distinguish the difference between high and low marks? Pupils like to see progress and the idea of having a "not yet" is fine for those who wish to use it, but it must be taught that it  can eventually become "never". If no one ever fails, no one ever wins. I'm not saying that motivational marks and feedback shouldn't be offered, everyone appreciates them, many schools, colleges and universities don't even use the word 'fail' to mark papers in today's society BUT that doesn't mean that the idea of an F should be replaced with a 'not just yet'. Marks are marks, we should be able to take them and know that we've succeeded, or that we walk away/try again. Many people have argued that the reason the F should be abolished is because it disheartens children, but regardless of how you put it, it still conveys the same thing. They have to try again.

The object of education is not to punish but to get the best out of children and do the best for them in every way possible, this too including that setbacks are a part of life. Failure should be inevitable, if you never fail, you haven't set your sights high enough. If an F is an accurate description of that result then it must be given, with a little bit of extra encouragement not only with they learn how they can succeed, but how to conquer obstacles along the way too.