I am becoming concerned by the nature of what we judge a successful education to be in Scotland. Currently, it seems based on the notion that by passing a series of examinations then schools have done their bit. I would really question that. For me, what defines us is the manner in which we succeed, the manner in which we fail and the manner in which we conduct ourselves in the world in which we live. The highest compliment we can ever receive is that we handle success and failure in precisely the same manner. That our reaction to each of those radically different outcomes should be indiscernible, that the outcome, good or bad, should be handled in precisely the same manner: with good grace, with dignity and with humility. Each of us is a winner and each of is a failure. Accepting that fact creates balance in our lives and allows us to see the bigger picture.
One of the most important attributes a person can display is that of resilience. Resilience is now considered by many to be the greatest single indicator of a person’s future success. Too many people do not try to succeed because they are frightened by the potential to fail. When we receive a knock, when we encounter an obstacle we should not shy away or seek the comfort and help of others who we deem to be stronger; we should stand proud and be prepared to acknowledge that the biggest failure of all is to have never tried to succeed. One of the quotes pinned in one of my school’s buildings reads, “Failure is success if we learn from it.”
And there is an important message there for parents too. We need to ensure our children can accept failure, that they can accept coming second, first or last, that they can accept being left out or included because the world now expects nothing less from its citizens but a sense of humility, dignity and, as mentioned before, resilience. If we continually crumble at the first sign of difficulty, or at those events which scar us emotionally, we are destined to fail.
The most successful people in life are not necessarily those who are deemed the most intelligent or the most academic. The true success stories in history are of those people who are committed to a cause, who have a strong work ethic, who are determined to succeed and who are only spurred on by failure; people who, in essence and to their very core, believe in themselves.
Schools need to stop focusing purely, or at least primarily, on examination results, which are only reflective of a pupil’s ability to regurgitate knowledge anyway, and instead concentrate on giving pupils the emotional and ethical tools that will allow them to go out and make a difference in the world.