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More focus needed on talent rather than grades, education researchers say

DUBAI // Talent should be nurtured and given a greater value than grades achieved in higher education, experts say.

“Talent is often overlooked by outdated grading rubrics, innovation pushed aside by memorisation exercises, and students are often not given the time to find out what they truly love to do,” said assistant professor Dr Franziska Apprich, of the Canadian University Dubai.

“Not every A-plus student will be successful in real life and not every D student will be a failure. Life is more complex than that. It is about what makes you happy, excited and is worth your time that counts.

“A lot of very successful entrepreneurs were academically weak, most inventors overlooked and many dreamers ­became iconic politicians.

“Many parents seem to overwhelm their kids with extra tutorials and activities to ensure them a good future life. This often backfires and the kids become anxious, depressed and not free to explore themselves and their talents.”

Dr Apprich wrote The Benefits of an Education of the Heart in a Competitive World, which has been selected for presentation at next year’s Innovation Arabia Annual Congress, to be hosted in Dubai in March.

She said more must be done to bring out the best in young people and help develop talent, enabling pupils to find their strengths and interests.

“Education has to allow for creativity and innovation; grades are one dimensional,” Dr Apprich said. “My mission is to stimulate rather than only measure, to observe rather than lecture and to change things for the better rather than keep on making the same errors over and over.”

Dr Apprich ran a study on 250 university students and how they coped with performance and exams.

“Two control groups went through examinations with classical music played and encouragement given by the teachers beforehand, while the other two did not. The result was very obvious. Seventy per cent of the students performed better when there was personal attention before the final exam.

“It was astonishing what a huge effect the music, sound and attention gave to students. Examination anxiety is horrible and can really prevent people from performing well.”

Campbell Tennis is a maths teacher at the university, and a life coach and author, who took part in the research.

“Grades are just part of education and should not be the sole assessor of somebody’s abilities and talents,” said Mr Tennis.

Dr Apprich said parents often “push too hard” for their children and aspirations of money often hinder progress to a good job in which they are happy.

Dr Natasha Ridge, head of research at the Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research in Ras Al Khaimah, said a better balance should be sought and the “importance of academic rigour” should not be downplayed.

“Grades and examinations help educators identify strengths and gaps in student learning,” she said.

“I also agree there is a need for more innovative forms of assessment rather than simply requiring students to memorise facts and figures.”

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