Can a comedy play affect the education in a country? Unfortunately, it already happened. In Egypt, the educational system drastically changed because of “Madrasat Al-Mushaghebeen” (The School of Mischievous) play. The play was released in 1973 and was adopted from the the American movie “To Sir, with Love”. In this play, a group of five rebellious students kept failing and retaking their last year of high school. The students’ constant pranks led all the teachers to a mental breakdown which forced them to quit the school. The play was first performed on a theater but due to its major success, it was recorded and broadcast on TV . For older people, the play was very funny. However, they did not notice that smaller kids got affected by this play and began mimicking these actions in their classrooms to gain their fellows praise. Alas, today teachers in Egypt are not much respected as in the past. I do not mean they are humiliated in classrooms, but they no more have the previous prestigious look from their students.
I remembered this sad story while I was preparing to write about a movie that discuss a great educational pedagogy. 3 Idiots is an Indian movie which was released in 2009. In this movie, one of the actors was called “an idiot” by his professors in the university as he did not like the way they were teaching and assessing students. In a famous scene (you can watch by clicking the link), a professor asked him to define “the machine”. He gave a good definition and examples one of which was pants zipper. The professor got angry and asked “Is that what you will write in the exam?!”. The professor asked another student who gave a long definition as memorized from the book. The first student is an example of a creative mind which understands and relates things, and the later is an example of who studies only for the exam (grade). The movie in other scenes also discussed the teaching philosophy of learning under pressure and learning for exams (grades). Finally, the movie shows what each of these students became in the future. It is needless to say that who was called an idiot became very successful in his life and that he deserved more than A+ in the college.
In his article, “The case Against Grades”, Alfie Kohn discussed the same problem of learning for grades. He mentioned that previous research has discovered that grades tend to reduce the quality of students’ thinking. Students are less likely to wonder, say, “How can we be sure that’s true?” than to ask “Is this going to be on the test?”. The author gave good solutions for the case of grading and suggested that instead of giving letter or number grades to students, it is better to give them narrative reports about their progress. This could be hard at the begging especially for students and teachers who are used to use grades. However, experiments show that these descriptive reports helped student to learn better and not to feel pressure at all.
He also suggested a good way of giving grades, if the system insists on using them. The teacher could grab each student alone and discuss with him, according to the narrative report, the grade this student think he should get with the final word being for the teacher. This type of self assessment is being used today in some school as a reference for students before getting their actual grades. Therefore, I think it would not be hard to apply the de-graded system using narrative reports while the self assessment could be used as a transition period.
Thinking about college, I think this type of assessment is not hard to apply at some fields like engineering. Many subjects now do not depend on exams as a source for grading. They depend on projects where students use their creativity to apply what they have learned. However, I think in some other fields this type of assessment might still not be applicable where students have to take exams.