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Success is about more than just academic results


' Whilst it is of course true that good academic results are important, schools and universities are now, more than ever, interested in a student’s attitude to their learning and their wider skill set. As one headteacher of a top UK school said, students need to ‘be prepared to think individually… and to not worry if they’re right all of the time.’

Many students are only focused on whether they got the answer right, but schools and universities are interested in how they got to that answer. They are looking for students who are capable of and enthusiastic about learning independently and thinking critically and creatively. Top academic results may get a student in to a top school or university, but they don’t necessarily mean that the student will thrive when they get there. It is no longer enough to just have information memorised and to regurgitate answers for test and exams. Instead, schools and universities are looking at how students apply their knowledge to a range of subjects and problems.

Schools and universities are also interested in a student’s wider skill set, beyond academic potential

Schools and universities are also interested in a student’s wider skill set, beyond academic potential. This includes the ability to work with others, to communicate effectively and confidently and provide reasoned judgements. This trend is also true of what employers are looking for. The ‘big 4’ consultancies in the UK (PwC, Deloitte, KPMG and EY), for example, are no longer comparing candidates by academic results. Instead, they are focusing on employability skills, such as the candidates’ willingness to learn, their communication skills, and their ability to solve problems and work as a team.

Given this wider focus, it is absolutely vital that students are given the opportunity to develop both academically and personally if they are to succeed. There are two ways that both sets of skills can be improved. Firstly, is by adopting a more student-led approach in the classroom. Students should be given the freedom to discuss their ideas and develop their own opinions and communicate these to others. This is widely beneficial, but particularly helps to improve independent thinking, communication skills and logical reasoning.

Secondly, is by seeking opportunities to develop wider skills more generally. This might include taking a course or programme that specifically targets ‘non-academic’ skills, or by encouraging your child to discuss the latest book they read with you. It might be taking part in a debate, or getting involved in a play and building confidence in communicating. What is clear is that developing these wider skills can be done in a range of different ways and there are lots of opportunities available. There is no ‘one right way’, but what is clear is that the more exposure children can have to experiences where they are required to think for themselves, communicate to people they are not used to communicating with or work with others, the better.


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