My mixed feelings about academic honors
Bare Truth

My mixed feelings about academic honors

Jun 20, 2024, 3:09 AM
Rose De La Cruz

Rose De La Cruz


Since 2016, with the introduction of the Kindergarten to Grade 12 (K to 12) program, the Department of Education adopted a new curriculum and grading system, which also altered the way schools give academic excellence awards. Where before schools conferred valedictorian and salutatorian awards to the top 2 graduates, now there is a wider recognition for those that scored general averages of 90 and above.

Some have criticized this new award system as depriving the prestige for the top two academic performers– which I agree to because they toiled the hardest to achieve this pinnacle in their studies– but I also agree with the majority that awards must also be given to those who toiled just as hard as the top two performers but failed to meet the grade parameter along their way to Grade 12. Perhaps in their earlier years they opted to enjoy their young lives a bit by taking their sweet time.

But what’s in a grade really, outside of the temporary prestige it brings the awardee? Can he/she huddle life better than those who did not meet the high grades like they did? Will their young life’s awards matter much, say, when they apply for jobs later on? Because studies have shown that early performers often reach their tipping points later in life and they might lose the stamina and perseverance to study just as hard, if not harder, for the grade in college, or even at work (once employed). There is a big tendency for burnout, or worse suicidal thoughts once they discover that somebody else is better than them at work.

Education and striving for awards is important. Yet equally important is that as children learn they also enjoy every stage of learning. This way, they are able to store good and fond memories of their learning experience as well as the lessons taught them in the course of learning.

In a recent television interview, Education Assistant Secretary Francis Cesar Bringas said the titles “valedictorian” and “salutatorian” were scrapped in 2016 with the introduction of K to 12 because the DepEd guidelines on awards and recognition under the K to 12 is more about attaining the standard competencies drafted by the department.

Now there is “with honor,” “with high honors” or “with highest honors” if the students meet the guidelines set by DepEd to give learners equal opportunity for recognition.

I noticed just how elated my Grade 1 grandson was when his name was among those called for “with honors” as for the most time, he seemed to have been enjoying his learning experience not realizing that he was also achieving much on his own. This is what I call democracy at its finest.

Unlike in the old system, Bringas said the new grading and awards system gives equal opportunity for learners since the recognition is not limited only to the top 10 learners per school.

He explained that those with average grade of 98 to 100 are “with highest honors” those with 95 to 97 are “with high honors” and those with 90 to 94 are “with honors.”

“That is not limited to one person. If many meet those standards, it means we will have many awardees,” he said adding that the recognition is not limited to those belonging to the top section, which DepEd also did away with K to 12 so as not to discriminate the kids’ learning capacity.

Bringas said that in recent years, the titles valedictorians, salutatorians, and honorable mentions were no longer awarded during graduation to prevent students from focusing too much on competing with others but with themselves.

This kind of awards system really highly encourages our learners to strive apart from being “more inclusive” since it is no longer limited to just the top 10 in the class.

The K-to-12 Basic Education Program began during the time of Education Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro and the award system was for learners who have shown exemplary performance in specific areas of their school life, anchored on their holistic development to become lifelong learners with 21st-century skills.

“It recognizes that all students have their unique strengths that need to be identified, strengthened, and publicly acknowledged,” it added.

The DepEd said the awards aim to “acknowledge and promote student excellence in various areas and to provide formal recognition of student achievements that can motivate learners to strive for excellence in academic, leadership, and social responsibility.

The DepEd explained that “learners who feel good about their abilities and contributions to the school and society are more likely to be happy, content, and motivated. When these learners are recognized for their efforts, they will also persist in their desire to excel. A motivating environment, one that promotes respect for student diversity and dedication to learning, contributes to the “creation of a positive school climate that supports the well-being and achievement of all students.”

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