The use of test scores in school to measure a student’s capabilities is a practice that goes back decades. For years, the one holy mantra chanted by Indian parents to their children is – “Do well in your board exams, and you can do well in life.”
But that’s completely untrue. Does a student who tops the board exam truly transform into a success later in life? And, is a student who fails standardized tests, doomed for life? Does anyone actually measure the correlation between test scores and success in life?
There are some fascinating studies and data on this subject.
Standardized Test Scores – No Longer the Golden Metric to Evaluate Student Performance
A research paper published in 2016 showed that the overall personality and attitude of a student are better predictors of life success when compared with raw IQ. The study revealed that instead of relying on standardized test scores, admissions officers need to look at other critical factors such as personality traits, resilience, and other life skills. One of the researchers behind the study was James Heckman, a famous Nobel-prize winning economist from the University of Chicago, USA.
The study further goes on to state that IQ related test scores are a flawed metric when it comes to predicting future success. Since standardized tests do not measure the abilities of a student. Instead, they focus on a few rote skills such as memory, speed of writing and presentation of memorized facts.
Change is coming. More than 900 colleges in the United States no longer require students to submit their exam scores. Instead, these colleges rely on real-world complex metrics to evaluate student performance. The tests themselves are changing and adapting to the real world. International tests such as the SAT and the PISA exams have been modified to test for complex abilities. In India, the CBSE and NCERT are also undergoing significant changes that shall be implemented by 2020-21. These changes will test students for higher-order thinking and application of knowledge.
Personality and life skills matter more than IQ
The study conducted by researchers from The Maastricht University in Netherlands and The University of Chicago, USA, tracked the IQ, grades, personality, and achievement of a large number of young adults across the US and Europe. The studies followed participants for over a decade. The researchers evaluated participants based on a variety of key indicators – life outcomes, wages earned, BMI (body mass index) and more.
The unsurprising results of the study were that – personality and life skills correlate more strongly with happiness and success in life than IQ. Those performing better on personality tests ended up with better wages and overall life outcomes.
Are we imbibing personality (social and emotional) skills in our children?
To thrive in the real world, children need a broad range of other skills, primarily social and emotional skills and ironically these critical skills have been ignored by most schools and colleges.
Social and emotional skills are developed by a complex combination of factors. The teachers themselves need to be recruited by schools and colleges based on their emotional intelligence. The teaching style needs to be different aimed to involve learners, so they work together (as opposed to against each other). Doing projects and solving problems collaboratively, in a safe yet challenging environment, helps build emotional intelligence.
The Bottom Line
So, are we teaching our children the right skills – social and emotional skills? Or are we merely focusing on test scores? For parents, educators, and policymakers the time has come to move from a false (exam- only) metric to a more complex (new world) metric where a variety of aspects are assessed. These should include assessing creativity, relationship skills, problem-solving skills, integrity, and empathy. For what is finally assessed is exactly what is taught.
Schools and education systems that can harness and implement the new world metric shall be the most likely to develop a young generation that is most likely to succeed and to be relevant for tomorrow’s workforce.