Many People Seem To Believe That An Individual’s Intellect Can Be Judged By Their Academic Abilities, But The Reality Is Not So Straightforward

Posted on May 15, 2011
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There is always much argument when exam results are published about whether exams are easier than they were years ago or whether more complex ways of evaluating students’ work now makes getting good results more likely. The debate will naturally take place again this summer and in years to come, but in reality I’m not really bothered what the facts of the matter are. What I do find annoying is that even for a person who has been working for thirty years or longer an initial review of a job applicant’s capabilities will still factor in their education, when what they have done since leaving school or college may well far eclipse what exams they took.

Equally, being able to learn one subject in great detail in order to an outstanding result in an exam, does not actually mean that you will be a model employee or that you have the common sense or day to day skills necessary to start in a new job and be good at it. I have acquaintances who are so knowledgeable about the subject they gained their degree in, but perform atrociously in other aspects of their lives.

As far as I am concerned, it is necessary to strike a balance between the two – qualifications and experience. I didn’t get brilliant exam results at school, for a few different reasons, but I have always tried to continue learning. It is a fact that the more you know, the more you want to know, as everything you understand leads you to find out about other things. I know far more about numerous subjects now than I ever used to and I will continue to show an interest in, read about and find out about any topic at all that I think I should know about. It makes any social situation so simple to deal with if you have a basic appreciation of a number of different topics so that you can always take an interest in what is being discussed and can join in the conversation.

But on the plus side, not having very great exam results meant that when I found myself a job I began on the bottom rung of the ladder. And what a great way to begin in a new job! You get to learn about the company from the basics onwards, learning many different skills in the process. Always querying things and gaining knowledge from what you are told gives you a comprehensive understanding of how the business operates and being promoted through the ranks means you get respect from your colleagues that you cannot put a price on. You don’t just arrive as a manager and start ordering people about. Instead you can sympathise with what your team has to do each day because you’ve done those things yourself in the past.

Naturally I do know that some careers need proper long term studying and training – I wouldn’t want my dentist or my Laser eye surgeon to be relying simply on CSE Biology before they began fixing my teeth or performing Laser eye surgery to correct my sight. And I’m quite sure I wouldn’t want someone dismantling my car engine or repairing the faulty Laser eye beam in my CD player if they hadn’t qualified to become a mechanic or an engineer. But there are countless jobs which don’t ask for such intensive training and in those situations surely an employer should be taking into account the applicant’s experience every bit as much as exam results from years ago.

In hindsight, I would definitely prefer to be what I am rather than what I might have been, though it may have taken many years to settle on that conclusion. I feel pity for those people who think that their education is at an end when they leave school and whose lives then consist only of lowest common denominator television programmes and not much else, because they can’t be bothered to question anything that might challenge their minds. (Yes, these people are real – I’ve met some of them!)

I’m proud of the fact that I can converse about many subjects – from ballet to indie music, athletics to cricket, gastric bands to Laser eye surgery, Charles Dickens to Robert Rankin, Romans to Tudors. I won’t pretend to be an expert, but I will be happy to get involved in the conversation.

So, in summary, I don’t believe that anyone should only be judged on their academic achievements. To do that is to take no notice of the vast amount of knowledge that we can all take an interest in throughout our lives.

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