Confidence or qualifications

We are back in the hunt for schools due to our move back to England.  In our interviews with the schools we were reminded of what appears to be two contrasting approaches to education, and perhaps to life.

1 – Nurturing the child, listening to them and identifying and working with their strengths to build a sense of inner confidence.

2 – Strategically identifying a child’s most effective route to exam success and gaining qualifications that give a sense of confidence based on documentary evidence.

It is hard to know which is actually better in our world, but both paths have their true believers.

Given my experience with exams and lack of qualifications I find it easy to go with the inner confidence, but then I have no personal experience of the qualification route.

The inner confidence is certainly valid in far more situations – personal relationships for example.  However some true believers in the qualifications route can find those without qualifications hard to accept in certain situations, like job interviews.

We hope that we have chosen a school that offers a better compromise than mine did.  Mine pursued the qualifications route, but left little room for those who this route suited less well.  The school we hope our kids get into sees qualifications as an outcome of the pursuit of confidence, rather than as the primary objective – and perhaps, hopefully, this is a good balance for our kids.

Life is an experiment we all participate in without knowing the results.  Parenting is the art of learning to let go gracefully.  We are experimenting and learning.

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With love


Neil Crofts
authentic business
+34 646391384
Skype – neilcrofts





About Neil Crofts

Writer, coach and consultant on authentic business and authentic leadership. Neil has inspired and motivated hundreds organisations and thousands of individuals to their highest potential. Neil has written three published books and numerous e-books. Neil is a coach, facilitator and consultant helping people and businesses find their authentic purpose and use it to inspire and motivate them to be everything that they can be. Neil has raced cars, been self-employed, run a company and sold it, been employed by large companies, experienced growth and contraction at the heart of the dotcom boom, tried changing companies from the inside and from the outside as European Head of Strategy at internet consultancy/rock band Razorfish. Neil has been independent for over 10 years and delivered his Authentic Leadership message to a diverse range of business audiences including people at BP, Shell, Microsoft, Kraft Foods, MSN, Jamie Oliver, South Gloucestershire Council, National Blood Transfusion Service, KaosPilots Business School, Fashion company By Malene Birger, German technology company Eleven.
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3 Responses to Confidence or qualifications

  1. Hi Neil – welcome back!

    Yes, interesting dilemma. My children are in a school that will give them with no external qualifications. What it will instil, I hope, is a sense of identify, self-belief and purpose.

    I went the qualifications route myself. It certainly works as a door opener – but it often fails in a number of other important ways. Despite going through one of the best educations money can buy – including an expensive boarding school and university at Oxford and Harvard – it wasn’t until I was 35 that I discovered my true passions in life. If I had discovered that in my school days, I would have had at least 15 more years of living from a place of passion and purpose!

    I won’t claim that my children’s education is necessarily the best for the world we currently have (where box ticking and silo mentalities are rewarded), but I do think it is a great education for the world we want to create (where we look at the whole person, whole planet and act accordingly).

  2. Dawn Waldron says:

    I think your instincts are right, Neil. Confidence beats qualifications, although a mix of the two is optimal. Having witnessed the pain on my daughter’s face this weekend as she read the letter from Oxford University, rejecting her, I’ve been sharply reminded of that. Just getting an interview with Oxford means she is exceptionally well qualified but – as it turns out – not enough to take her through. We all felt a bit crushed.
    As I watched her bounce back over the next 24 hours, I saw her inner confidence (and sense of purpose) kick in, allowing her to think that there will be better things ahead. Confidence, too, allowed her to rationalise it in her favour – understanding that the decision was about match/mismatch rather than superior/inferior.
    I hope your children enjoy their new school. I’m sure the school will be lucky to have them.

  3. David Collins says:

    Neil, it is a tough one. Our son is five and I feel like we have the choice now: traditional education or something more alternative focusing more on him as a person than a qualification getter. And they do qualifications too! We are going down the route where he will not leave kindergarten until he is seven (as they do in Germany), and where his schooling will be more about confidence in the self than chasing academic achievement for the sake of it. I do wonder if it is the right choice, I have plenty of friends going down the other route, and probably all my family see that as the way to go too. Still, I academically did ok (University Prize for top of my class and all that), but it never gave me confidence. In fact, the traditionally education structure may have contributed to a lack of confidence in my self. I fear that my son may not achieve academically as well as he might otherwise, or be behind others his age when it comes university entrance. But then, maybe by the time he reaches that age our educational (and work) landscape may be more enlightened, aware and authentic than it is today. Thanks for posting this. David

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