Pass or Fail….But be resilient.


The educational world is full of contradictions.   A perfect example is the recent discussions on the importance of developing resilience in students and even digital resilience as discussed at a recent conference in Australia.    I strongly agree with the need to develop resilience in students as throughout their life students are likely to encounter difficulties and even failure.   Teachers need to support and develop students such that they are able to get past such difficulties and learn from then, picking themselves up, dusting themselves off and marching onward.

The issue is that all of this is against a background of student examinations and standardised testing where students are either considered as pass or fail or in the case of standardised testing, above or below average.    I would question how possible it is for a teacher to develop resilience in a student who often hears and sees reference to how they are below average.   I would equally wonder how possible it is for the above average student.    Students invariably look at scores and grades and no matter how much we try to avoid categorising ability based on such quantifiable measure they will focus on these and make comparisons between themselves and their peers.    Students after all are often told by their parents about the importance of qualifications and of grades, and they see the focus put on these measures by their older family members including brothers and sisters.   Failure to meet expectations therefore has a significant impact and even more so where a student perceives it to happen regularly or even often.  No number of positive comments and reinforcement from teachers is likely to address this.

If resilience is as important as is claimed, and I believe, then we need to re-evaluate what we currently do particularly with regards constant testing, grading and examinations.   If resilience is just another fad then we need to drop it now and concentrate on what really matters, whatever that is.

Photo courtesy of Sira Anamwong at


Author: garyhenderson2014

Gary Henderson is currently the Director of IT in an Independent school in the UK. Prior to this he worked as the Head of Learning Technologies working with public and private schools across the Middle East. This includes leading the planning and development of IT within a number of new schools opening in the UAE. As a trained teacher with over 15 years working in education his experience includes UK state secondary schools, further education and higher education, as well as experience of various international schools teaching various curricula. This has led him to present at a number of educational conferences in the UK and Middle East.

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