Prep School Tells Students That Failing Is OK

Students get a dose of reality about what succeeding in the real world means.

What is the meaning of success? Well, there are many answers to that question but one school is making it a point to let its students know that failure is, in fact, a huge part of success.

Fettes College, in Edinburgh, Scotland, is a co-ed boarding school with famous alums like former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. Students there certainly have a drive to succeed.

But in response to the growing concerns faced by young students to do well, it held a “Failure Week.” Students were asked to do things they normally wouldn’t to show them that failure is one of the "most misunderstood ingredients of success."

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For example, they held a concert where students who had never performed or played an instrument took part. The experiences of renowned success stories, such author J.K. Rowling and entrepreneur Richard Branson, were highlighted for the students to realize even they, at some point, had to deal with failure – and that doing so turned out OK. It's pertinent to mention here that Rowling, before she was the genius behind the Harry Potter series, had been living in relative poverty and was diagnosed with clinical depression.

In light of a highly competitive job market – and one that is constantly evolving and becoming complicated – students feel an alarming amount of pressure to succeed, especially in school.

The head of personal and social education at Fettes, Sue Bruce, stressed that students are “striving to achieve a level of perfection that is simply untenable.” She also pointed out that “if they let the fear of failure stop them from doing something, they are actually stopping themselves from learning, developing and potentially succeeding.”

Failure Week was widely praised by educationalists. The head of the Centre for Confidence charity, Carol Craig, said, “Parents have a notion that if their children fail at something they have to protect them from it because of the view that it will damage them, but they are actually undermining their resilience. I think it is a particular issue for top-performing and fee paying schools because a lot of the pupils there, particularly girls, have extremely high aspirations, but are also perfectionists and therefore cannot deal with failure."

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