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Forget A* Grades Beaming Emojis Could Soon be Appearing on Certificates


A secondary school in Kent has been censured for using emojis to display pupils` GCSE scores. St John Fisher Catholic School in Chatham displayed the GCSE results of all year 11 pupils on a colour coded board, with emoji faces representing their grades. The decision to display the results in such a way was not a popular one: less than a week after the array of faces had been put up vociferous opposition from a number of parents led to their removal, and a more traditional - numerical - method being employed.

Once would assume that the highest grade would be represented by a yellow face positively beaning with happiness; while the lowest grade would be indicated by as much sadness and grief a little graphical countenance can show. The headteacher explained that the emojis actually correlated with each pupil`s personal targets - so the pictograms are an indication of a positive or negative outcome;

`Although the display board was not intended to cause any upset, we have taken the decision to remove it as three pupils in total have asked for their details to be taken down and a small number of parents have been in touch with us. ; The focus must be on improving students` life chances and we will continue to support each pupil and help them work towards their targets.`

Emojis have become all the rage recently - only a few years ago it was impossible to send much more than a crudely constructed face, with deft arrangement of a bracket, a colon and perhaps a hyphen if you were really feeling artistic. Now mobile phone users can chose from hundreds of different faces, all clearly showing a variety of emotional states. The old maxim that a picture says a thousand words certainly feels true when you add an emoji to a concise text message. They do feel rather playful and sophomoric though - their inclusion would certainly not be appropriate in a business email, and it is unlikely that emojis will feature prominently in the next booker prize winning novel. Maybe this is the reason that there were complains when they were used to depict the GCSE grades at the John Fisher School.

There are many academics who take the whole business of emoji`s very seriously though. Vyvyan Evans, former professor of linguistics at Bangor university, says their use is considerably altering the way in which we communicate. His latest book `The Emojo Code` opposes the view that their usage leads to lazy communication.

`The naysayers, the doom-mongers, the self-appointed grammar police in the popular press and so on argue without any evidence that things like emoji are basically the equivalent of an adolescent grunt,` Professor Evans has said.

His theories seem to imply that that human communication actually has more to do with posture and tone of voice - the pitch itself - rather than the purely linguistic content. Emojis are just another way that human embodiment is creeping into technological use. A trivial example of this is how the telephone replaced the letter (or telegram) as the primary method of long distance communication. We can learn more information about someone - how they are feeling, their attitudes and state of mind - through a brief telephone conversation, where we hear not just their words, but (critically) their tone of voice too, than we can from a lengthy letter or email.

Whether smiling or frowning faces are a good way to convey how a student has performed in an exam is another matter of course. In my opinion a simple percentage is the best option, not just for clarity, but because it offers a such a high resolution of grading. A student who just scrapes a C grade will have performed considerably worse than a pupil who barely misses a B grade - though this detail will be masked by the final mark they both receive. At university of course things are even worse: a student who just manages to attain a 2:1 could be many marks behind another student who just misses out on a first.

Displaying pupil`s results in order of their grade could help to motivate them - and it should be pointed out that the John Fisher School was displaying the pupils` progress in emoji`s - these weren`t final, or even predicted marks. Do Emoji`s have a happy future in the education sector - it seems doubtful to me, but only time will tell.

14 months ago
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