I've read a lot of this thread, and would like to give my input.
To save repeating myself, I have just posted in the "why do you play the Piano" thread where I explain how for me, a combination of what was expected from me at home, and how boring I found the ABRSM drove me away from the piano.
My post is here My post
The jist of it was, I found the music totally boring, passed grade 1, was working on grade 2, tried to get my teacher to also let me learn Scott Joplin's The Entertainer, she had zero interest in it and said it was too advanced for me.
I managed to teach myself the first half of it in just a few hours, that was 45 years ago and I can still play it from memory today.
Due to how boring and uninteresting I found the music I was expected to learn, I simply gave up (never minded learning the scales)
So I read the first 3 pages of posts in this thread with interest.
I actually think to a point, the views of those who think like "Bennevis" and those who think like "precise" are equally valid.
I will try to explain.
My sister had the same piano teacher as I did. She now teaches the piano. The ABRSM worked 100% perfectly for her, she thrived learning it etc etc etc. Yet for me it was the complete opposite, it killed my passion for learning the piano.
The piano teacher must have been doing a good job, otherwise I doubt my sister would have achieved all she has.
I also severely struggled at school, I just didn't seem to click with the way most subjects were taught. It also didn't help that the infant school I first attended, tried an experimental way of teaching my class to read, called ITA, that bore zero resemblance to how any normal person would learn to read.
In the past couple of years I have spoken to two very very good retired teachers about my experience at school, both said exactly the same thing. Putting it into my own words, they basically said "The way the schools are set up is to stream people through it using a certain criteria. That works very well for about 60 - 70% of pupils. Unfortunately for the other 30 - 40%, there is nothing in place for them and they are effectively forgotten about"
I went to a fairly rough UK school in the 70's, there was a lot of discipline problems, a lot of disruptive pupils etc. But one thing always stuck in my mind. Some teachers knew their subject matter very well, but had zero skill in holding the classes attention, and would spend more time trying to control the class than actually teaching them. Then you had the teachers that were quite good at keeping the class controlled, and quite good at teaching.
Then you had teachers with a knack of keeping control. I remember my English teacher well. To me, at the time, she seemed like the oldest person in the school, but the reality is of course that at that age, she might only have been 40
. She had some of the roughest out of control pupils in her class, she never ever had to send anyone out, never ever had to give a detention and never ever let any of us disrupt her class, and she spent very very little time achieving this.
And finally you had what I call the best teachers. Those that could both control the class, and when certain pupils are really struggling, ignore whats been said about pupil xyz in the staff room, and instead encourage these pupils that feel useless etc that they are capable, they are good enough etc.
The point to the above is, many kids leave school, go on to college and Uni, get all the exams, then go on to be teachers themselves. While on paper they are 100% qualified, the reality of being a teacher is totally different, some will have a natural ability to relate to the kids, some will learn it, ans some won't. You will have people from all the categories I've just talked about (and of course there's categories I've missed).
I read a post in this thread saying that people don't teach piano for the money or don't become doctors for the money, that I disagree with to a point.
The sort of teacher I described as being my favourite sort is the teachers that has a passion for the kids to learn, regardless of how many other teachers have written those kids off etc. That sort of teacher, whether teaching the piano, or teaching maths will have gone into the profession with a real passion for educating the kids, and for those teachers then yes I agree they haven't gone into the job for the money, they have gone into it for their passion.
But sadly from my experience (in many different areas) they are few and far between.
Likewise many people go into the health profession due to a passion of helping others, often as a result of the care they themselves received as a child when ill etc. However many many more do make their decision to choose that career path because there's a lot of money to be made.
A good friend of mine. his wife is a GP (Doctor in the UK) . Her entire family are doctors and from an early age they were encouraged to go this route as it will give them financial security, that is the only reason his wife went into this profession.
Likewise a family member was a piano teacher and their sole aim was to make as much money as they can, try to charge as much as they can get away with etc, and many ,any teachers do fall into this category (and of course many also fall into the category of really having a passion for passing on their talent to others) .
One of my biggest hates in life is those people who say " when I did "xyz" I did it this way and it worked fine for me, therefore it must work fine for everyone else", or someone who behaves in a certain way in a certain situation and then says "I managed to act like abc, therefore if you didn't, there's something wrong with you" etc. Not sure those are good explanations of what I mean, I'll try again.
Put 10 random people in the same situation, and there may be 10 different reactions, there may be 5 different reactions, their could just be the same reaction from all 10, but its very doubtful.
Lets say a man is walking down the road, a complete stranger comes up to him, shouts abuse in his face, says horrible things about the person he's married to etc. Some men would feel really threatened and carry on walking. Other men wouldn't feel threatened, but would think he's an idiot and still keep walking. Another man might turn round and thump him. I say all of those actions are justified. However, many would be of the opinion that because they didn't thump him, any one else that did, must be wrong. Again not the best example, but I'm trying to show how we all react differently under the same situation as we are all built differently, we all have different personalities.
For many many people, things like the ABRSM will be the perfect solution for them, as people like Bennevis has shown, for them it worked very very well. Yet for many others (myself included) it was the worst thing ever for me and did real damage to my piano passion in my early life. Neither of us are wrong, we are simply all different.
The problem comes at spotting those for who it isn't working for, and changing their teaching to something that does. However I suspect many (not all) teachers that teach ABRSM, only really know that particular method to teach, hence a real problem arises.
It doesn't matter how many people successfully use ABRSM, if many pupils who don't get on with it experience what I experienced (ABRSM or nothing), then yes, it does become a major problem.
While of course I appreciate that when it comes to playing the piano and passing exams, it's much more than doing a written test (if you can't play the music, you're not going to pass) , I have always struggled to always see the point of a piece of paper claiming a person is at a certain grade (this applies to anything).
But I am very biased in this respect as due to a troubled home life, I didn't really learn anything at school past 13 and I left school at 15 without an exam to my name.
In the 80s, if I wanted to go for a job, I could walk into most places, often have the interview there and then, those places where I had to book one, I could go along and sell myself. I was never out of work, sure I've done some menial jobs in my time, but I also quickly worked my way up in many places I worked.
If you wanted to work in say Mc Donalds in the 80s, you could walk in, ask if they had a job, and that was it. Whereas, now (at least in the UK) , jobs that don't really need qualifications, are demanding applicants have them, putting them through what I call stupid interviews (using modern workplace talk, and silly personality profiles) , and basically excluding a large percentage of the workforce from ever being given a chance all because they didn't do well at school.
To me, if you now need an exam to do an unskilled job, it makes the worth of the knowledge of the exam it's self, totally meaningless.
I've always had a natural ability in maths, but didn't really go to class past 13. I was sitting at home with my leg in plaster at about 18 when an advert for this home computer course came on the TV, Within a month I had my first computer, a Commodore Vic 20. And I taught myself to program in assembly language in it, and the maths I needed I learn't in a matter of hours.
Roll on a few years and I ended up as Senior Systems Analyst and Operations Manager with 23 staff reporting directly to me, totally in charge of a multi million pound super computer installation. Not having the exam did make getting my foot in the door a lot harder, at the same time I have met many many many so called qualified people with various exams in IT that are totally useless and haven't got a clue. These people have simply learned what they need to learn to pass the exam, but have learnt nothing about the subject as a whole.
Likewise I have wanted to go for jobs that I know I can do backwards only for the agency to tell me that they are only allowed to send uni grads to that particular job, it's their loss, not mine.
Sure, in many jobs exams are very important to show you are at a certain level, it doesn't matter how skilled someone says they are, if they cant pass an exam for say medication, then they should never be allowed near patients. But for many other jobs, while exams show someone has taken a particular route to get to where they are today, it doesn't always mean they are better than someone else who doesn't have that piece of paper (and in many cases might be a lot worse)
You want a good pianist for a particular thing. Fine, advertise, say you want someone grade whatever. But if someone turns up without that qualification and tells you to just hear them play, I suspect that in many situations like that the player will turn out to be just as good as the one with the certificate (and sometimes will be a lot better) .
I have a friend who I reckon could pass almost any exam. He has the knack of reading up on whats needed, remembering it and waltzing through any exam he takes (without knowing the subject at all). Then you get people like me, who hate written exams, never do well at them, yet know the subject matter really well.
I'm rambling a bit now.
An exam is a good starting point for those needing a skilled person, but if they insist on the exam and exclude everyone else, they will be missing out on some really really talented individuals.