June 14, 2008

Grades are out

Grades are out, and I really mean out. As you walk in the front door of the school, class lists are posted on the wall with grades for each subject for each student for each grade level, for all to see.

I've always felt a bit uncomfortable with this public display of personal information. I guess Italians don't consider grades to be personal, and therefore needing privacy. THere are students that are "admitted" to the final exit exam -- the maturità -- or the next year and others that are non ammesso, or "not admitted." Those with many "credits" and others with "debits". Those with high grade averages and those who just managed to pass.

A written report card never comes home at the end of the year -- just the posting of grades and the "ammesso" or "non ammesso" by each name. In the end it is just important to have passed the year.

There is something about my sense of individualism at the root of my discomfort with this system. Grades are personal business, my business, not the group's business (my classmates). I can chose to share my grades, but at my discretion.

My son, instead has passed the last five years with essentially the same group of 25 students, sitting in the same room, with the same teachers day after day after week after month after year. Their school lives are so intimately intertwined after endless interrogations, "information sharing" during written tests, discussions, jokes, studying, being stressed out and helping each other that a strong sense of one unit has been formed -- to such an extent that it does not seem strange or out of place that everyone's grades are posted for everyone to see.

And you wonder why that core group of high school friends follows them around the rest of their lives like a life-raft.

a domani,


Anonymous said...

It's strange how here in Italy, the ultimate goal is to pass whereas serious students in the US are obsessed with their GPA for college admissions and whatnot. It's ironic how Italian students are just trying to get by- very similar to the general state of things here. People are always getting by without hoping or aiming for more. I find it sad, do you?

Elizabeth Abbot said...

There is the "happy with just getting by" part, but it is also due to the fact that kids are actually failed at the end of the year (at least at the top tier Italian licei) and it takes quite a bit of work just to pass. Any kid failing a year in a US high school is generally on their way to jail, whereas I know some bright kids with dedicated parents who just had an off (adolescent) "moment" and end up not passing the year. One transferred to an international school where she now gets great grades (with little work).
Always two sides to the question and in the end, top students are top students everywhere.

Lisa said...

"Any kid failing a year in a US high school is generally on their way to jail..."

Not really, it really depends on what city/town they live in. If it's an inner-city school then that could be true, but that's not generally the case. The same can hold true in Italy, depending on where you live... some kids in the ghettos of Naples or Palermo are failed and are certainly headed for a life of crime, but a kid who fails in, let's say Florence, might just have had a bad year, bad teachers, etc.