Jack Of All Trades, Master Of None?

Published by alvinauh on

I stumbled upon an argument with two of my students. One of them scored extremely well in one subject but poor marks for the other subject. This gave him a higher grade point average, whereas the other had more As than the other. As they were arguing, I was wondering which is better, to be a jack of all trades, master of none like the student with more As or to be an expert in only one subject but only being adequate in other subjects.

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In School

There are many education systems that are moving away from an exam-oriented system. In Malaysia, there is still a prevalent exam-oriented culture. However, the focus of an exam-oriented culture is not based on how good a student can excel in one subject, but all of them.

As such, when applying for scholarships, the student with more As will have a better chance of obtaining a scholarship as compared to those who only do well in one. Thus, it can be said that many are focused on obtaining a string of As.

However, this does not mean that students who only do good in one subject are considered inferior. There is nothing wrong in pursuing a subject that you are interested in. I for one loved history and excelled at it but hated maths. Such interest often helps the student make a decision in what field of studies once they enter university.

In The Future

However, as the term ‘exam-oriented’ has become a rather taboo word among education administrators, there may come a time when exams may be as important as the number of skills you possess.

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Looking back, I often find that it is the average students who do well in life. Often, these students perform adequately in exams but are actively involved in different extracurricular activities. This gives them the necessary skill set to make the right decisions in life, as well as the tenacity and leadership skills to navigate whatever life throws at them.

There were some of my academically excellent students who did do well. However, there were some who ended up breaking under the pressure. Ironically, it was not exams or studies that broke the but the pressures of work, relationship, and finances.


I guess my point to all this is that the pursuit of academic excellence is a great pursuit. However, it is the job of us parents, teachers and even the students to put down the book one in a while and learn what is around them. It is through obtaining different skill sets that will expose students to the real world. Hopefully, it will be enough to prepare them for the challenging future that is ahead of them.