Happy learning: How innovative is a good grade?

results of the French baccalauréat

Is it all about grades?

Over the last few weeks, millions of students around the world have taken their final exams, desperately struggling to attain good grades and access the universities of their choice. The Chinese Gaokao, the French Baccalauréat, the British A Level… are all symbolic of the hyper-competitive nature of our education systems.

At a time where innovative learning seems to be the only solution to improve our education systems,  maybe it is worth wondering why these exams are not being questioned, and for which type of innovation they stand for.

Innovative learning is about instant access, individualised assessment and growing mobility. So, is it innovative to have hundreds of employees of the French national railway company, SNCF, being mobilised to enable students to reach their exam centres while a massive strike was going on? Is it innovative to neutralise traffic in all major Chinese cities to enable students to arrive on time? Is it innovative to wait a month before receiving the results of the English A-level exams?

Innovation in education is full of contradiction. While we are looking for more personalised learning paths that will enable each student to achieve his or her goals, we are at the same time pushing to the limit the competitiveness of our selection processes.

Last week, we proceeded to the final selection process of the Open Education Challenge to identify the 20 startups that will be presented to our jury, and apply for a place in the European Incubator for Innovation in Education. The selected proposals don’t escape these contradictions that surround the present and future of education.

Powerful learning analytics are not only used to improve the way we learn, but also to improve the way we perform in exams. Innovation in this case is not questioning the way we select the best students, but empowering students to take the best out of the existing system. Sophisticated learning management systems and editing tools do not diminish the competitiveness of education systems, but take the best out of existing ones. Independently of their innovative features, the plethora of new MOOCs are still heavily criticised for not giving official certificates, and some innovators are focusing on solving this issue.

Is it certainly not enough to ask how innovative a good grade is? We should now define an alternative to these grades that will enable students to get the recognition they need, employers to recruit them and… for parents to be – at last happy!

Happy learning may be the new challenge for our education entrepreneurs.

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