You are here

High schools should get rid of grades, exams: summit

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

WATERLOO, ON, Oct. 3, 2013 – Lose the grades, lose the exams, and don't worry if all the kids in a class are not the same age. That's what a gathering of international education leaders is recommending in a dramatic new learning roadmap released today.

The sweeping recommendations of the Equinox Summit: Learning 2030 (a product of the Waterloo Global Science Initiative) also propose eliminating grades 9 through 12 in favour of groupings of students based on ability and area of study.

"We assume 30 students in the same grade, one teacher and four walls is ideal. But what would happen if we threw out that model?" says summit participant Greg Butler, founder of Collaborative Impact and former head of global education for Microsoft.

"The current model of grade levels and ages is flawed. We need to progress students through high school, not by their ages, but by the stages they're at."

The Learning 2030 Communiqué contains summit participants' detailed recommendations on areas ranging from the use of new technologies in the classroom and methods of increasing student engagement, to teacher training and benefits of local school autonomy.

"Ideas like this are already successfully happening in innovative individual schools around the world," says summit participant Jennifer Groff, a graduate researcher at MIT and vice president of learning & program development with the Learning Games Network. "We've tinkered and tweaked for decades and we have the same system. If you want different outcomes, you have to rethink of all the parts of the system and redesign them together."

Learning 2030's 33 summit participants represent nearly a dozen countries, including the UK, Australia, Singapore, Finland, Qatar, several African nations, the U.S., and Canada.

"Students today have a very negative energy surrounding their high school education," says summit participant Zainab Ramahi, an undergraduate student in knowledge integration, a unique interdisciplinary program at the University of Waterloo. "The world needs students who feel impassioned and excited about going to school." 

The Learning 2030 Communiqué, video of summit plenary sessions, and summaries of the behind-closed door meetings that led to the Communiqué, are available at A more detailed Learning 2030 Blueprint will be released in the New Year.

About WGSI

Waterloo Global Science Initiative (WGSI) is a non-profit partnership between Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and the University of Waterloo, a pairing that has previously resulted in the distinguished Perimeter Scholars International program and the University of Waterloo's pioneering Institute for Quantum Computing. The mandate of WGSI is to  promote dialogue around complex global issues and to catalyze the long-range thinking necessary to advance ideas, opportunities and strategies for a secure and sustainable future through the Equinox Summit Series, Equinox Blueprints and Impact Activities. For more information visit

For further information:

Media Contact
Hayley Rutherford
Communications Coordinator, Waterloo Global Science Initiative (WGSI)
T +1 (519) 569-7600 ext. 7613
[email protected]

Watch Videos