My Past Academic Writings 1: “The word “failure” should never be used in education.”

So, I have decided to showcase some of my past, not so well-done academic writings that I have done in my 2 years in Junior College. They are not the best, but these are definitely pieces which I have placed my hard work, sweat and blood into. And I most definitely welcome discussions!

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It is tempting to dismiss the views on education on popular social media websites – the comments that encourages skipping lessons, the befouling of teachers, the pictures of parents and children burning textbooks after completing a major examination –  as nothing more than the unhappiness and complains by societies. This would be a mistake, for all of these truly reflect that there are people who cannot appreciate the benefits to education. Such revelation prompts an issue to surface. What exactly went wrong with the education systems around the world? A common insight would be the debate on the usage of the word “failure”. The writer of this piece feels that the word “failure” should be used in education but at appropriate times.

The word “failure” can be used as a way to motivate individuals. People have expectations. When one fails to meet the expectations, feelings of regret and remorse are likely to manifest. This is very much likely to be the case of students who are unable to score decent results in examinations or tests. The word “failure”, be it by word of mouth or written down in the form of a red-letter “F”, serves to prompt the students to reflect on their mistakes and to learn from them. The idea is to better oneself at the end of the day. Thomas Edison’s multiple attempts at constructing a lightbulb received several negative feedback from people around him, many of which were dubious about his attempts. Yet, he continued and eventually succeeded. Hence, in the quest for success and to better oneself, the word “failure” should be used in education.

However, opponents may argue that the usage of the word “failure” may facilitate demoralization rather than motivation. They feel that many students these days are unable to cope with the stress as well as the impact of achieving a “F” on the result slips, which can possibly exterminate the drive to better oneself. In extreme cases, some students, who are unable to cope, decide to end his or her life. This is very much evident from the high suicide rates in China and South Korea. While I agree that there are some students who cannot confront with the reality of failure, I disagree that such cases may be problematic. This is so because there are many social safety nets for students that will help them in dealing with issues with regards to academic failure and at the same time eliminates all forms of negativism. Schools in Singapore provide free counselling services to those in need. Laws in South Korea were implemented to prevent students from engaging in tuition after 8pm. Hence, with such safety nets, the potential problems arising from using the word “failure” has been reduced to the minimal.

“Failure” can be seen as a tool to garner feedback for educators, who will make the necessary arrangements to benefit the student body. Educators understand and appreciate the fact that students are individuals, who possess potential traits and skills. By failing and deeming a student as failure, educators are able to identify the capabilities of students and then calibrate teaching methodologies that best benefit students at the end of the day. That is why Singapore, Malaysia and many other countries engage students into streaming examinations. By streaming students of similar academic capabilities into same classes or schools, educators can then stimulate the best learning environment for them. Hence, I disagree that the word “failure” should not be used in education.

Besides a form of motivation and a means for feedback, “failure” is also important in preparing students for the real world. Modern day education teaches individuals the relevant social skills, such as basic communicative skills, which is necessary and crucial in modern-day 21st century. To facilitate that, many schools represent themselves as replicas of how our modern-day society works – group discussions, presentations and due assignments. That is why many schools across the globe encourage group discussions and project presentations. In Singapore, “Project Work” is made an examinable subject. Schools also inculcate stress management techniques and skills to better cope with failures. To accomplish the latter, the usage of “failure” is necessary. By exposing them to failures early, educators can train the resilience of students, which is an essential trait people should possess in our demanding society. The idea of education serves to expose students to the challenges modern-day society faces. Hence, “failure” should be used to help students better prepare for the future.

Yet, one problematic occurrence would be that not all subjects can identify and define “failure”. Subjects, such as literature and music, are largely dependent on the way they are being interpreted. This can be problematic as each person may view and interpret things differently, and there is no such thing as a wrong or correct interpretation. As such, the value of the term “failure” is pretty much senseless.

In conclusion, “failure” should be used in education but definitely at the right time for it can motivate, provide feedback and cultivate resilience.  We should also understand the importance of schools, which resembles our modern-day society and how it serves to inculcate the skills necessary to survive and succeed in our 21st century.

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