Question Of the Week #1

Hiya SCG,

I am so thrilled from twenty eleven kick off for Question Of the Week series. So, here we go, first #QOW for you is:

How can we help to transform motivation to attend school institutions from grades-based into knowledge-based?


Why do we buy into this grades, certifications and school loans game? Is there any other way how to look at education and pursue true knowledge acquirement? What do you propose to get our reasons for signing up to schools/universities straighten up? Do certificates really matters?

Back at you, now.



  1. Random idea: lets not give grades but knowledge 😀
    The only thing that worked for me was being put in situation when I realized how much I am in need of a certain information. Way to go around is to make a mental picture of need…

    • Hi Brano!
      Thanks for starting 2011 #QOW series with your prompt comment.

      I do wonder, would you not mind to have no grades at your university?
      Would it be o.k., with u to study, but not know your evaluation in grades?

      • Hi Ivana!

        Just a really quick comment – I’m currently “studying”* for my last exam.

        A month ago, my tutor (at electrotechnics class) told me that we are not asked to understand the problem&answer, but we are asked to know the answer. I would love to know WHY&HOW, but tutor won’t tell me anyway (because “we do not have time for that”). So, nobody really cares if you understand the subject… Then, you loose your last piece of motivation to study for knowledge, not for grades.

        * – learning answers to 186 questions… that’s just silly memorizing stuff

      • Hiya Tomas!
        Welcome to SCG!;-) Congrats on your 1st comment.
        @your grades vs. knowledge note:
        Majority of schools are designed in a way, where you are required to imitate what teachers shows you and that means good grades. Any deeper inquiry or questions why are things the way they are is considered as being unwanted and not complying part of the class.

        Luckily, when you realize that the main source of motivation to study or do whatever you do, is coming from within you, no discouragement can stop you.
        Passion and interest in something is very contagious and you can excel in your niche without needing approval from anyone for it.
        Try it out!
        Tons of excellence moments full of bliss.

  2. Martina says:

    I think certificates are necessary, because they prove not just you attending some kind of lessons but also understanding what you have learned. I cant imagine any other way of measuring the knowledge.
    What i would change, though, is the way we view the grades. Often its a subject of competition between classmates. Instead, we should be challanging ourselves, not our classmates. I realized that when my english teacher at high school instead of comparing my grades to other classmates said to me in front of the whole class in 4th grade that I have improved so much over the last 4 years, going from “4” marks in 1st grade to “1” in 4th grade plus suddenly gaining my american accent that I need a special recognition. So she recognized my improvment over the years instead of comparing me to other students. You cant imagine what kind of motivation i got from that! What a perfect example of the way i try to live now – becoming a better person I was yesterday, rather than telling myself I am doing better than my contemporary friends (which slows you down). Btw thats also what i like about golf – its more about improving your own results rather than trying to play better than your business partner:-)

    • I absolutely agree – grades are an essential way of measuring your progress.

      But on the other hand – the whole problem is not about whether to grade or not to grade students. The problem is the attitude of teachers to students and teaching subjects. The problem is the amount of data you have to learn by hard, literally.
      The problem is, that our learning model is NOT a spiral, so at the end – we find ourselves knowing all the details, but unable to see the subject of our studies from a greater perspective.


      • @ Martinka:
        agree, that grades system are indicator of attendance, the only problem with it arise when conditions for attendance are lower & lower, when it is enough just to show up and you are guaranteed to get your degree after 3 years, just because you showed up.
        Question, which emerge from it is: “Is it not pity to spend 3 or so years of your life on something you are not passionate about and on something your efforts to accomplish it are far from stretching yourself&discovering your own limits, talents?
        Do we need to compare ourselves with others based on grades?
        Do we really believe in status quo so much, that we forget who we truly are and what our dreams are?
        Do we?
        For illustration I am attaching video of a famous photographer and artist from NY, who has never been studying photography & that he has claimed to be the main reason for his success:

      • @Zuzu: spot on and I believe that Slovak educational system is a prime example data – memorizing education. We all can remember in what detail we have been studying already in Grammar Schools…
        I believe that less is more in this case as well & teaching simply and clearly is much more difficult than one can imagine, because simplicity is not simple and it requires true love for teaching and co-operation with students/kids who as Franz said bellow know very well what they want to do in life…till we (society, parents, teachers etc.) stop them & tell them they are foolish.

        So, let’s start to focus on simplicity and integration students into design of learning process.

  3. I think grades-based motivation is just the effect. We should focus more on the cause which seems to be that children don’t know what they want from life.

    Well, that’s not true – children know very well what they want, but the adults often find their dreams ridiculous, stupid and impossible; adults think that kids have to grow up and get more reasonable to choose their profession and to choose what they want from life. That’s the reason why schools (except colleges) focus on general knowledge and almost never specialize. Therefore, kids often have to do what they don’t like and don’t really need for more than 10 years until they get to the college of their choice. In between, they suffer from information overload and the school doesn’t make them happy or satisfied. They don’t go to school to get useful knowledge, but to get often useless knowledge and waste their time. Therefore, the grades were created to get them motivated.

    Moreover, our society has this attitude that makes fools out of the children that do what they want to do. In the end, this destroys their dreams and our hope for better future. Yeah, we have to change first to make the school system better.

    • Oh my, Franz!
      What a mind-blowing and sincere comment!
      Love it!
      Believe me, I can clearly re-call tons of moments from my high school when I have been considered fool…And yes, I did know what I loved to do, study and develop my skills in, too.

      I believe you are pretty clear on what drives you, so carry on with your creative spirit & consider disapproval around you as a sign that you are on the right track.
      Lead by example, march on!

  4. Peter Csík says:

    HI guys,

    happy new year for all of you!

    I think that grade-based as well as knowledge-based education systems are two sides of the same coin. The coin is the education itself. If I would like to know / understand something I am sure that I am able to find a way how to do it – I can ask a teacher or someone else for info, google it, read books, observe… There are some possibilities.

    Currently I study at an university because I want to obtain a bachelor degree. I have realised that I do not need to have “A” grades. It is enough for me to have C, D grades and I also can continue my study. It is my way how to reach my goal. It also allows me to use my ingenuity, to have much more time than an “A-grade” student. …and everything what I need to know for my life I can learn a different way.

    Take care!

    • Hi Peto,

      great metaphor: grades+knowledge are sides of the same coin.

      My questions are:
      Is it really 50-50 distribution on that coin? Does it mean that when you have knowledge and understanding of the subject that you have a good grades? Or do good grades guarantee that you have a necessary knowledge and you know how to apply it in real life? Or you have been just compliant enough to as Tomas said: give 186 correct answers or as Zuzka underlined, that we are studying way too much of data?

      I would certainly want to be “paid” with knowledge coin, behind which I could see results, portfolio, achievements, changes one has accomplished rather than just certificate.

      Make sure, you will have some tangible “evidence” of your knowledge in action too, before you finish your degree. And I trust you are striving to get there! Good luck, Peto.

  5. grades / certificates is a way of measuring progress globally……. so i think it is good to have similar ” measurements” across globe that translates to resumes….

    what matters is quality of progress that each element acquires …… today the branding shifted from HP, ibm, accenture brands to Ivana Sendecka brand, Branislav X BRAND, DS brand.

    • What an honor to mention the personal brands in one line with large businesses!

      But yes, you are perfectly right, the time has come for people to use their power of will & share their ideas and thoughts with the world. and not only that. together with action and /as Ivana said/ leading by example we finally have the power to start the whole innovation process. because we all know the world needs it.

    • Hey Di!
      very interesting insight, I must say.
      I do wonder, do big brands & firms consider “emerging small” brands as want to work with or stay far away you will not fit, you are a competition and unwanted?
      What is your take on this? Is this mind-set of perceiving ‘brands” different in U.S.? Is quality recognized and appreciated?

      • when i was referring to developing brands i meant each employee should in fact develop ” you/personal/in my case Diana Silonova” brand….. backing up the brand name by shipments to borrow yr term here. The quality of yr brand helps you to move in/out of company. its happening for sure… example – increased voluntary attrition trend today, biggest movem. of employees with 5-10 yrs with HPlike corporations.

        re your “emerging”….Smart companies acquire complementary little guys like ibm does on weekly basis…..

        re 3rd question in US……it depends on industry… but yes quality still holds in “court”.

      • Excellent, it seems that location really changes standards of perceived value a lot.
        For example: I have been considered as unwanted element in the org, because my approaches & way I worked, communicated were named as too futuristic for Slovakia…;-)

      • hehe you are futuristic !

      • LOL, big time futuristic;-) I am from the future and another galaxy;-) (for some people that is)

  6. Maybe I was lucky, but the bulk of my teachers focused on knowledge.

    I would like to see school become more “applied know-how” and more experiential. While I don’t know what’s fully possible, I think there’s a big opportunity to start connecting the classroom to the real world way earlier on. (I always enjoyed job shadows and other field trips to light up the learning.)

    • Hiya J.D.,

      yeah, you can consider yourself lucky, indeed! I can count interesting classes and inspiring teachers I had in schools on one hand.
      The thing is, that we “know” what should be done, that kids should be engaged with real world etc. & yet very few do it. Let’s see what the future will bring.
      Have a great week ahead, my friend!

  7. Tomas Kuracina says:

    what a great discussion here, I totally agree with Franz’s comment, that’s exactly what I think about this.
    The problem here in Slovakia is the old comunism pattern of our parents “you must have a degree, without degree you are nothing and you will strugle in life, you will never find a good job..etc” which we still believe or don’t have any other option.
    So we just go to some university. We enjoy the student life and the only goal is to get that degree after 5 years..(well, some students have a goal to be students as long as possible :D).
    Now where is the motivation? Grades are the only thing that force students to fact on my university we were the “56 points club”, where the 56 is the border between passing an exam and failing 😀 (means our goal was to get 56p)
    So it’s the old thinking and super old school system that produces the current grade-based motivation and kills the knowledge-based motivation to attend school.

    P.S. It is all connected with the fact that people just don’t know what they want from life..they don’t have any goals. That is why they go to university…because when you are 18-19, without any vision and goals for life, it is the easiest thing to go to school..(and waste another 5 years of life) enjoy student life and do nothing..and pretending that I am studying something. Whole studying is a big lie..9 out of 10 student hate school and learning, so why they are there?? Because it is still the easiest option.

    • Whoa! What a comment Tom. Nice analysis of the mainstream thinking in Slovakia and “how essential” is it to have a degree, which roots are going back to our past, when going to university, was for selected few.
      I think that trouble is not with having a university degree, trouble is that in our tiny Slovakia we have 40,000 graduates each year and quality is, how to put it mildly…let’s call it: …inflation of education….

      And the only way to change this, is not to chose the easiest way…

    • Maybe Slovakia……hmmm i hate to say it but i really loved my grad. studies in US … 😦

      • Tomas Kuracina says:

        It’s okay if you loved it..better for you 😉 Maybe I should add that there are some students here that love the school and really study for gaining knowledge..but it’s a minority group…and..the red diploma does NOT guarantee them any success, especially if they don’t have goals..

      • I hate to hear that Di too, but I can see your point, because I have seen you studying at Slovak Uni & enthusiasm + support which you were talking about your US Uni was not present in Slovak case…
        It is time, to do something about it and start showing people there are also other ways how to go through studies.

  8. Hey all, great comments & discussion have to say.

    From my end,


    I think, that changing this whole grade-motivation system will take some time & we have to count with it. It is the generations after generations, that feel much more need to see knowledge seeking rather than the system-passing to be present in schools… But until all the structure of educational system is governed by those generations, we will always have a “rotten egg” in the way to change.


    Firstly, again the generation also plays role. Many of our current children are still (of course in good intention) being raised with simple logic – “Get your diploma, you gonna get a good job & you’re safe for good”. Well, firstly, it isn’t true anymore and secondly, how many of current children are looking for “good job & being safe for good”? Until the children are not thought at home this, it will take longer to see the “big” change.
    Secondly, applied knowledge & need of knowledge is not what is being harnessed in the children. Let’s make children lives the journey for wisdom that they need. Simply said – if a child will need that specific information/knowledge, he/she will want to get it from somewhere. School should be opening challenges & providing source of solutions. And if also parents would use this system, it would be the best synergy possible.


    Well, this is kind of question. How to rate unconventional, unstandardized learning process, which eventually has to come in hand with change in the motivation for education…
    I would suggest following (utopic & fantasy for now…):
    Take a school that would teach let’s say 40 different “subjects”, all voluntary, all freely available for all students. Give them time of 1 year to attend, study, figure out what the subjects are about. And test them on applied knowledge – a week, two, tree of case-studies, discussions. And what you solve, you know & get credit for, what you don’t solve, you still can do later, but don’t get credit yet for it. And by credit I mean only “YES or NO”. Because anyways, the 5 (10) grade evaluation is anyways gone in the times, when all the information you need can be found quickly, you don’t need to know physics for 100% when you get out of school to be the best. You just need to know where to find the info & how to apply it.

    Well, I am not sure anymore, whether I replied your question Ivana, but I hope I gave some points for discussion. Keep on studying 🙂

  9. Outstanding thoughts, Marek!!!
    Outstanding it!

  10. lets keep the system as it is. let the system “push” general knowledge to our kids head (primary and grammar school) and specific knowledge and skills (high schools and uni). of course we need to align curriculum to current and future need. learning is not a simple process and kids would rather prefer to play outside.

    but on the other hand, let’s create environment for those, who want to know more. there are already lot of initiatives and NGOs, where can kids get educated (ngos like aiesec, amavet, etc.)

    i don’t think that we can cheat gauss curve. but by creating a proper environment, we can help those who want to take their chance.

    ps: marek, i want “good job & being safe for good” 🙂

    • Wohooo, Vaco! 😉 Welcome to SCG with your 1st comment.

      Great thoughts, again. Especially P.S: for Marek is awesome! 😉

      Btw, do you have any proposal for creating or changing environment into such way, that we would encourage kids to want more and learn?

    • Thanks for the PS Vaco 🙂
      But in my comment “good job & being safe for good” I meant having a “warm place” working 9 to 5 & having no care whatsoever for doing anything that brings to ones life more than money. And as I know you, you do not really want that kind of “good job”…

  11. marek, trust me. i want that kind of job. i am in the process of building it now 🙂


  1. […] I want to thank you for your exhausting comments on Question Of the Week #1. That is what I call truly rocket take off in 2011!;-) Let’s carry on this week & share […]

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